While foreign interests were partly to blame for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodians themselves were responsible for the 1.7 million people who died under the regime, an author says.
The country on Friday will see the 40th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge insurgents, marking the rise of the brutal regime and its harsh agrarian policies.
Ronnie Yimsut, author of “Facing the Khmer Rouge,” said in an interview that he will never forget the misery the regime brought. “But I don’t want this anger to kill my ideals. I’ve turned this anger into building myself and helping the Khmer people.”
Yimsut said it can be difficult for Cambodians to recognize the role of other Cambodians in the atrocities of the regime, especially because its leaders often try to blame outside forces.
“Khmers killed Khmers,” he said. “First, we have to recognize that we did this to ourselves. Foreigners can poke into this. China may have had a hand. There was a Vietnamese hand, too. No doubt. But in the end, it was Khmers who should be held accountable for killing each other. But the Khmer Rouge leaders do not want to take responsibility. They point their fingers at others. This is wrong. Please acknowledge that.”
The author was beaten and left to die in the middle of a field by the Khmer Rouge, but he survived and fled to the forest. After that, he staged a personal vengeance on a Khmer Rouge garrison. Now, he does not want to see more revenge.
“I took revenge on the Khmer Rouge, but the results were not satisfactory, only more sinful than before,” he said. “We need to do a good deed.”
Currently, two former Khmer Rouge top leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, are on trial at the UN-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh. Yimsut said he has been disappointed by the slow pace of the court.
“The tribunal should see a clear purpose to help the victims, not to help themselves,” he said. “It is not a show. It affects the minds of the people in our country.”