Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oahu became home for ex-Cambodian leader's exile

Exiled Cambodian President Lon Nol lived on O'ahu from 1975 to 1979 before moving to California. (ADVERTISER LIBRARY PHOTO | Jan. 6, 1979)

Monday, October 22, 2007
By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Honolulu Advertiser (Hawaii, USA)


A suburban O'ahu neighborhood became the unlikely venue for news about bloodshed in Cambodia as the country fell to Communist-led guerrillas in April 1975.

Days after Khmer Rouge forces seized Phnom Penh and began their infamous reign of terror, exiled Cambodian President Lon Nol and his family moved into a four-bedroom home he purchased on Kamilo Street in Hawai'i Kai.

From his living room sofa, the deposed strongman described atrocities in his homeland, called for United Nations intervention and sought support for refugees.

"What's happening in Cambodia concerns not only Cambodia but the whole of Southeast Asia," he told The Advertiser shortly after settling in. He remained on O'ahu for four years.

The former general and defense minister had taken control of Cambodia after helping to lead a 1970 coup that overthrew vacillating Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

Lon became a convenient but ineffective U.S. ally as the war in neighboring Vietnam drew to a close and fighting intensified in Cambodia. The U.S. dropped more bombs on suspected North Vietnamese strongholds in Cambodia than on Japan during World War II, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and combatants while buying time for the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam.

Though Lon received U.S. military and financial support while in power, some American officials and many others had doubts about him.

His frequent consultations with astrologers were thought odd, and critics accused his regime of widespread torture, murder and corruption. When he and a fleeing entourage of 28 landed at Hickam Air Force Base on a C-135, protesters angrily demanded that he leave.

While Lon's power was short-lived, the coup is now widely seen as a major turning point in modern Cambodian history.

The ousted Sihanouk aligned himself with the Khmer Rouge rebels and called for patriotic Cambodians to join them. What had been a weak Communist insurgency quickly swelled with thousands of fighters who knew little or nothing of their military leaders' ideology. And the massive U.S. bombing campaign infuriated Cambodian peasants and drove North Vietnamese forces deeper into Cambodia.

Meanwhile, Lon had sought to strengthen his position by releasing hundreds of political prisoners — including Kaing Geuk Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, who is now awaiting trial in Cambodia's U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal.

After the 1975 rebel victory, Duch ran the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, where he allegedly oversaw the torture and execution of thousands of men, women and children. He has been charged with crimes against humanity and is being held without bail.

Lon had escaped to Hawai'i just in time; his younger brother, Gen. Lon Non, remained behind to negotiate with the rebels and was promptly executed.

From his new home, Lon Nol pledged to create a government-in-exile and return to power, but he lacked support and never saw Cambodia again.

He enrolled in English classes at the University of Hawai'i, sent his children to public schools, and was occasionally spotted shopping in Chinatown.

He soon bought a larger Hawai'i Kai home, at Kumukahi Place, and later moved to a 4-acre spread on an unpaved road in Nanakuli, where he raised geese and rabbits and grew vegetables. His son Rith, who attended Wai'anae High School, would translate for journalists who occasionally sought out the aging former despot.

In 1978, Lon wrecked his brand-new Lincoln Continental on the H-1 Freeway in 'Aiea, but escaped serious injury.

Before moving to California the following year, he said the Mainland would offer his children better opportunities.

He died of heart failure in Fullerton, Ca., in 1985, at age 72.

Advertiser Staff Writer Johnny Brannon is traveling in Southeast Asia as a Jefferson Fellow with Honolulu's East-West Center. Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Democracy is beautiful, isn't it? I mean when we used bullets and bombs to debate our differences for the good of our country.

Anonymous said...

The Khmers and the world are aware that the regimes below have their blooody hands on the lives of the innocent populations.

1. Colonial France
2. Sangkum Reastr Niyum (of the then Prince Norodom Sihanouk
3. Democratic Kampuchea
4. PRK with the backing of VN troops.
5. N. Ranariddh and Hun Sen

6. Khmer Republic or Gen. Lon Nol
Did it have any blood on their or his hand?

Basically all Khmer leaders and gov'ts including the former colonial power, French, have blood on their hand.

KI do you have any info on this/these?

Or Khmer Republic and/or Pres. Lon Nol the exception.

Thank.

Anonymous said...

You must be blind, 12:45. Had Khmer Republic not created, we wont have anywhere near as much victim as we have up to date.

Anonymous said...

The Yiekcong blood ,the khmer rouge blood,are the same color and has the same smell but with one is the animal blood that causing people have the tremendous hard ship?

Anonymous said...

we should save tigers ,crocodiles yieckong and khmer rouge blood or Lon Nol people's blood?

Anonymous said...

Anything but Khmere Rouge and Lon Nol.

Anonymous said...

1:46,

This is 12:45. You just have to conclusion.

Based on what had you concluded?

Anonymous said...

Corection.

1:16AM,

This is 12:45. You just have to come to this conclusion.

Based on what had you concluded?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Lon Nol had a stroke shortly after taking his the officer or be as Mr. President. He couldn't possibly able to guide his country to do the right thing. Many saw that and just plainly feeling helpless or else taking advantage of it and so we sunk to the buttom.

Cambodia under Mr.Lon Nol wasn't much different from it was under Queen Kossamak & her son Prince Sihanouk. Most of us live a relatively normal life, except that our country had a War.

Missing was class conscious or royalty's style. We thought that some of the Cambodian languages, the custome and those richest dresses and polite manner were mostly gone with it. Also gone, was the sense of being supreme & mighty which of course, Royalist always saw themself as Supreme & Mighty or being attach to someone who was as supreme, as Godly or mighty as Queen and King. It was hard to adjust at first, but we decided to say "it's good just to drop it". So that it deosn't go to our heads too much.

Mr. Lon Nol wasn't bad. It wasn't bad at all. He had his own vision of creating The cambodian Supreme & Mighty to himself. It wasn't bad, because that version was combining with....? wasn't it with The American? Do you know the American?!!!No you don't! and did we really see it?!!! No we didnt!, but more and more of our people were becoming awared of who we were and what we can do to help ourself to enstill that sense of being supreme or in our interpretaion " we can do anything that we want to" or being Free!!! Wouldn't that be Supreme enought? Many of us had worked very hard to push our life to the next level under President Lon Nol's regime. How many of us want to be at the top of the wrold? None! It couldn't possibly true.

Unfurtunately, it wasn't enough of us at the time to realize that we too would one day could be called Mr. President and be a true defender of his new creation regime, but it was there. We just did not know. Therefore, our limit was as tall as the ceiling.

Mr. Lon Nol in our eyes was a man who tried to be the best. Like the season, it has its own color and that season was cut short. Too short that when Mr. Lon Nol's season...sorry his regime ended or changed, 2 millions of us had gone with it forever......

Good? bad? Yes? No?

Ordinary Khmers

Anonymous said...

Any regime or goevrnment that aren't out to kill their own people is always the best.

Anonymous said...

Bullshit, Lon Nol is the most corrupted person in khmer history. I am sure he will be condemned forever by all future Khmer generations.

Anonymous said...

If he sought support for the refugees is doubling of the best!

Anonymous said...

He sure is doubling the best! Hey! where are those hell makers when we need them?

Anonymous said...

We must be honest to Late Lon Nol.
He was a good man and a good leader. He was a scapegoat of Sihanouk. Lon Nol was a true patriotist and was a true commander. In reality, Sihanouk has created all the problem for Cambodia by allowing Vietcong to install their head quarter of warfare against USA and South Vietnam in Cambodian land throughout Kg Cham, Mondolkiri, Ratanakiri, Prey Veng, Svayrieng and Kompot. Hundred of thousand of Vietcong have been sheltered in Cambodia with the help of Sihanouk. In 1970, USA has a plan to withdraw their troops from South Vietnam. Sihanouk has founded that after the USA withdrawal, vietcong will not withdraw their troops out from Cambodia, therefore, he has left Cambodian messes to Lon Nol to take care. He wanted Lon Nol to responsible for all the vietcongs in the country. But after, he left to China, Sihanouk has accepted to be leader of the Khmer Rouge and has appealed to everyone to stage war against Lon Nol ( Cambodia ). THe removal of any disgraced leader in any country in the world is normal. But for Sihanouk, it wasn't. He used revenges and warfare for his come back. He accepted as leader of Indochina federation front fighter against all fronts supported by USA in indochina in an indochina conference in Guangdong on 23rd april. Vietnam has nominated Sihanouk as a great leader of the front. For this reason, vietcong has their legitimacy to invade Cambodia for the reason to re-instal Sihanouk back to power. That was a bad move for Sihanouk to allow Vietcong to kill Cambodia openly.
Lon Nol has arranged many officials to talk peace with Sihanouk but have failed because Sihanouk wanted his Khmer Rouge comarades to walk into each city with guns and will kill those who have supported Lon Nol regime.
We can admitted that Lon Nol Regime was corrupted by his military leaders, his brother Lon NOn and many minister ( not everyone were corrupted ). People wage and salary were being paid with Cambodian currency ( not like today ). Lon Nol has good prediction about the killing after the war by Khmer rouge. His description of Sihanouk was pefectly right. Lon Nol was a public servant long before 1970. He has a good vision for Cambodia. But his popularity was not comparable to Sihanouk. Therefore he has to quit Cambodia with integrity. He has died with dignity and with high moral. He wanted to help his Nation but has failed because of Sihanouk ambitious to regain power. Areak Prey

Anonymous said...

Wrong, LonNol was nothing more than Sarimatak mouth piece. He's a fag. He wouldn't dare to coup Sihanouk on his own.

Anyhow, 4:49, how come the article didn't mention how much money LonNol donated to the rufugee, is it because they run out of room on the paper to write it down or something? I can't figured that one out.

Anonymous said...

Between all 12:45AM suggestions.
I prefer the Sangkum Reast Niyum.
Every system has their weakness and strength. By considerating all the advantages and disadvantages.
Only Sangkum Reast Niyum give Cambodians pride to be Khmer. And don't forget, We have real students and teachers. Cambodians have the inspirations. No inspirations, a person is considered dead or is in a prison.
And 5:33 AM is right. Lon Nol was nothing more than Sarimatak mouth piece. ex.General Dieng Del, of course some you are too young to know him, confirm to me that information. ex. General Dieng Del is wellknown figure in the 70 to 75.
One thing that we share the same point of view is very important. What ever happen to cambodians, just cambodians DON'T LOSE HOPE. ONLY HOPE CAN DRIVE US FAR.

Khmer canadian

Anonymous said...

Yes, I do agree with you that Sangkum Reast Niyum was the good old days, 6:23, but it was destroyed in just 10 short years, and it's just impossible to built it back up as quickly as people wanted it. This is like an individual who lost their life saving overnight. How can that individual get it back the same time as they lost it. It can't be done, especially when the country is not fully industrialized like Japan.

As for General Dieng Del, I don't remember. Also, I don't remember much other political figures either except for the popular one.

Anonymous said...

Sangkum and CPP or DK are having the same master,Sihanouk,the dictator.

Lon Nol or Sirik Matak were Sihanouk sacrificial lambs because Hanoi got him by the balls.

Anonymous said...

And how did Hanoi managed to get Sihanouk by the ball?

khmer pheas khloun said...

I agreed with areak prey this poster has a good records of Lon Nol at that range ,Sonkom Reast ankoy yom all messed up and Sihaknuk used Lon Nol to clean up his mess, Lon Nol corrupted but every citizen not living under now a day condition Aids ,HIV,land grabbing from poor dirt Cambodian,human trafficking ,forest defrosting,natural resources destroying, corruption,prostitutors ,The drug manufactures and fake doctors, so if Lon Nol left alone by Sihaknuk .Cambodia better off like South Korea or Thailand ,we shouldn't be staying in Vietnam mouth waiting to the day that Viet finish Cambodia any minutes,This is The Sihaknuk policy and ideologies he born to finish Feudalism and Cambodia on to Youn hand to make his Viet wife happy.
Sihaknuk you are the winner of your stupid game.Cambodian and Cambodia are the looser in 21 Th_ century.

Anonymous said...

5:33a.m

Read it again. There was no money involved here. " From his living sofa " he called the UN intervention and sought support for the refugees". There was money involved, but that was enough for a man who at the time also was fighting for his life from a stroke.

Mr.Lon Nol as we saw him, was very reluctant to fight with Prince Sihanouk. He was still having great respect for The Prince. Therefore his milititary was ineffective as The American and the rest of world had noticed it. He just happened to get caught between the hard rocks.

May his gentle and honorable soul rest in peace.

Anonymous said...

Did he had a choise at that time? He probably did, but like many of us, Mr. Non Nol sure would puke with the Communist and whose our Prince's lover? In his conscience, he must like to get away from it so badly and did it just to say No for one to his high and mighty- upper Prince of nagative thinker.

Anonymous said...

11:04, here's a quote of paragraph 2 and 3,

"Days after Khmer Rouge forces seized Phnom Penh and began their infamous reign of terror, exiled Cambodian President Lon Nol and his family moved into a four-bedroom home he purchased on Kamilo Street in Hawai'i Kai.

From his living room sofa, the deposed strongman described atrocities in his homeland, called for United Nations intervention and sought support for refugees."

I don't see no stroke.

the question is did he donated any of his personal money to refugees?

Hell, you think he's the only one who call on the UN to help the refugee? Even African diplomats will called for UN intervention if they known about it.

Anonymous said...

Ask our fellow citizen in Cambodia who are older. They will tell you that Mr. Lon Nol had a stroke. No money involved or without money, it didn't matter. It matters that he still care and worry about our people in & out of the refugee camps. Sure, he was man who lost the war. What do you expect? It's still better than to win the battle then go in and slaughtered people blindly. You're probably one of those killers who did it. Just get lost! suc..r!

Anonymous said...

So what? Are you saying Lon Nol's brain is screwed badly from the stroke that he can do everything except donating money to his supporters? Who are you trying to kid, dude?

Anonymous said...

Stroke...
How can someone, just by the look of the person, can tell that the person have a stroke???
Did you guys know that Nhiek Bun Chhay got stroke too??? Even the prince warrior Ranariddh got stroke. Tough to tell by the look only.
In fact, I don't support Lon Nol coup's d'etat (putsch). And I don't think that Lon Nol like Sirimatak either.
It's just happen that way. The only country who got the real information is USA. I have lose so many relatives too in the Khmer Rouge.
When Sirimatak was the governor of Kampong Cham, Lon Nol was the chief district of Suong (one of the district ..Srok... of Kampong Cham). I try to figure out how can a man like Lon Nol like to be call ''Ah Nol'' by Sirimatak even if at that time He's already a General.
ex General Dieng Del related that incident. Calling high rank people by ''Ah'' is really arrogant, and not politically correct and disrespect.

Khmer Canadian

Anonymous said...

well, you're right 4:22AM, I've wetnessed all the Royal Families always call thier people AH and MEE.

Chakkrapong called people in Kompong Cham "AH", when Sihanouk sent him over there to "rehab" his behavior with SAK Bie OM.

These people have no Human respect or value at all, especially the POOR. They at us down dirt.

Anonymous said...

Even if he was incompetent, his only mistake, like Sirimatak told the Americans, was to trust them so that they could betray him later.

Lon Nol on the other hand, had nothing close to being accessory to the genocide like some other dudes. His hands were not bloody, and his conscience was less cloudy.

One thing good out of the coup d'etat of 1970 was that some of the Khmers learned to walk straight up without having to "crawl under the dust of some fools' feet," or to say "carry some fools' toilet bowl" on their heads first before starting or ending a conversation.

khmer pheas khloun said...

I do not understand why these posters hate Lon Nol so much,yes of course Lon Nol had the stroke half of his body it doesn't function well,but he cleaned up all the vietnamese ,so your guys hate him because of that reason? Hey common all the mess that Sihaknuk has made Lon Non is the cleaner,and Sihaknuk ordered Lon Nol and In Tam did that so what is wrong with that? Between Sihaknuk,Lon Nol,Pol Pot heng Somrin and Hun Sen I agreed pretty much with 10:19AM Lon Nol hands no khmer blood except Viet
so to me Lo Nol hatters =Yiekcong Only Sihaknuk
he acted and he put the blame to Lon Nol,but the real thing he ordered Lon Nol to make that coup d'etat to fix his mess only.
Khmer USA

Anonymous said...

The killing field began in srok khmer shortly after lon nol took power. he started killing viets by hundreds and dumping them in river, it was becuase of lon nol much more than sihanuk the kr were able to take power because the khmer people were so shocked by curroptions of lon nol regime and us bombing. life was good under sihanuk. most are too young to remember.

Anonymous said...

Lon Nol was a U.S. puppet. He came to power all because of the U.S. once he is power, he let them bomb the country sides. Is that what a nationalist would do to their own people and country? more like a selfish traitor. Then, he became the so called Khmer clensing, killing Vietnamese in Srok Khmer. That is like the khmer version of the KKK. I'm Khmer but I believe all those khmer that were so racists to kill the Vietnamese civilians without them doing anything, they deserved what was coming to them, death and destruction. Too bad, all the rest of Khmer had to suffer because of some moronic racist idealist pussies.

khmer pheas khloun said...

2:15PM I personally not going to put the blame against you ,because you know nothing about that. N.vietnam and S.vietnam they just only one they cheated USA for build up their country,US fought with Viet in their Viet country why Sihaknuk has to invited yiekcong in Cambodia and set the fire to burn down our country?Sihaknuk fault US bombed yiekcong in Cambodia territories that got permission from Sihaknuk too.Why he doesn't let the world has known that ,why he just quiet and let it happen? Compare to that time corruption and to day way different (to day the worse) yeah I accept that what you have said lives too good under sihaknuk but what you don't see and you don't know that Sihaknuk=taot in a little jar ,lacking of defending e very day just thinking about his movies to compete with kong somoeun,and Sin sisamouth used a lot Cambodian monetary to sandwiches and gas for helicopters while he went to shot his movie back and forward so he careless while Cambodia sleep under sihaknuk ruled the viet awake and train all their troop,Sihaknuk think he so smart instead he is dumb depend on China his allies or insurer but the end of the day that a lot mess left behind,and Sihaknuk refused all what his mistakes,please don't give me that ignorant no more ,Sihaknuk is not my ETV he is ah kbot sold the land to yiekcong=Hun Sen,so if you still not understand the concept go towwwsihaknouk crime page and check it out it over there some thing before you born about sihaknuk go ahead that your Euv not mine,

Anonymous said...

Hey, the US had no business in Vietnamese's affair. They know how to run their country, alright?

Anonymous said...

And yes, 2:15, I am the witness to the Sarimatak regime atrocity against innocent Vietnamese people, and Ah Khmer-Yuon is also responsible as usual. Anytime you see major issue in South East Asia, you'll find Ah Khmer-Yuon finger prints all over the places. Need I say more?

Anonymous said...

@2:15PM and 2:58PM are real Youns.
Why are you youns live in cambodia?
is cambodia is youn land?
lon nol just cleanup youns invader.
lon nol just did what he has told.
youns is youns, no such thing youn north or south, they are only one youn. The thief, stealer, invader, aggressor,sabotager, flip-flapper,
and the king of terrors. That's youns all about,

Anonymous said...

12:33, the reason Yuon live in Cambodia is no difference from Yuon live in AU, UK, ... or US. What is your problem?

Anonymous said...

3:10AM
The yuon in Australia,England and US it lawful yuon that has the right to stay over there but ah youn in Cambodia no one invited them they just the thieves ,criminal,cheaters ,scamming,illegal ,take advantages of the weak Cambodian that having treason leaders,against Cambodian peaceful enjoying their lives in their own country ,that is enough and getting some in your brain??

Anonymous said...

No, yuons in cambodia have the same rights as yuons in AU, US, NZ, ..., or France.

Anonymous said...

well.youn is bad around the globe we(human be}must clean these cancer.