Thursday, August 05, 2010

Cambodian Genocide

Former Khmer Rouge Talk about Massacres in New Doc
By Robin McDowell
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, August 3, 2010
Photo: "In this film publicity image provided by International Film Circuit, filmmaker Thet Sambath, left, interviews Nuon Chea for the film 'Enemies of the People'." (AP Photo/International Film Circuit)
"For more than three decades, Cambodian villages have been home to silent killers: Former Khmer Rouge commanders who slit the throats of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of victims before dumping their bodies into shallow graves. Filmmaker Thet Sambath spent 10 years combing the countryside trying to find those who carried out massacres so they -- together with the genocidal regime's ideological leader, Nuon Chea -- could reveal the truth about one of the 20th century's darkest chapters. Their stories are told in the groundbreaking documentary 'Enemies of the People,' which is playing in limited release in the United States, with more theaters to be added each week into the fall, its distributor says. At least 1.7 million people -- a quarter of the population -- died from execution, disease, starvation and overwork when the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge tried to turn the country into a vast, agrarian paradise from 1975-79. In the film, Soun, a former militia commander, sits beneath a tree and gazes out at what are now sparkling green rice paddies. 'I come back here to where I killed people,' he says wearily, pointing to a half dozen spots where swollen bodies used to pile up. 'I feel terrible ... My soul, my body is spinning inside. All the things I did are flashing through my mind.' ...
Soun leads the 42-year-old Thet to confront other killers, who have to be convinced, slowly, to confess, and then to those who issued orders to kill ethnic minorities and others suspected of being traitors or spies for Vietnam. Eventually it becomes clear, as they go up the chain of command, that there was probably never an 'original order' from the Khmer Rouge's inner clique to carry out massacres in the countryside. Rather, regional chiefs, and officials directly above them were interpreting what they were hearing at an abstract political level. ... Nuon Chea confesses for the first time in the film that he and Pol Pot together decided to kill all party members considered 'enemies of the people.' They had to be destroyed, he said defiantly, to 'save the party' and 'keep the rot from spreading.' But he said he was unaware -- or too busy to care -- what was happening in villages and the rice fields. [...]"

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