Monday, July 24, 2006

Khmer Rouge "Butcher" buried near Pol Pot

24 Jul 2006
By Ek Madra

ANLONG VENG, Cambodia, July 24 (Reuters) - To the sound of fireworks and a wailing funeral dirge, hundreds of mourners buried former Khmer Rouge military chief Ta Mok on Monday near from the grave of "Brother Number One" Pol Pot.

Even though most Cambodians knew him as "The Butcher", a man whose hands were stained perhaps more than any other with the blood of the ultra-radical regime's 1.7 million victims, Ta Mok was revered as a hero in the final redoubt of Anlong Veng.

"It hurt so much to get here from my village because of my legs," said former guerrilla Hong Him, 54, who lost both limbs to a landmine blast in 1986. "But I had to come to say farewell. I could never forget that it was Ta Mok who gave me a wheelchair."

Ta Mok, who had himself lost a leg in fighting in the early 1970s, died on Friday aged 82 in a military hospital in Phnom Penh around 300 km (200 miles) to the south.

His body was taken to this tiny village near the Thai border, where it lay on a wooden bed beneath his daughter's porch as hundreds of mourners filed past, dusting talcum powder on his face and thrusting grimy notes into his stiffened hands. Relatives then dressed the corpse in a dark blue suit and tie -- intended to ensure a "pure" reincarnation -- before laying him in a teak coffin draped in a red-and-white Cambodian flag. A pick-up truck doubled as the hearse.

His final resting place -- he was buried rather than cremated as is normal Buddhist custom -- was an ornate pagoda just 3 km (2 miles) from the grave of Pol Pot, who died in a mountainous jungle guerrilla camp in 1998.

Many of Cambodia's 13 million people, most of whom lost relatives to the Khmer Rouge, fear death will creep up on the regime's other surviving leaders before they can appear before a "Killing Fields" tribunal that finally started work last month.


When they seized power in the impoverished southeast Asian nation in 1975, the Khmer Rouge declared "Year Zero" -- the most radical social programme in history.

Cities were emptied, money abolished and commerce outlawed as the entire country was mobilised to fulfil Pol Pot's dream of creating an agrarian, peasant utopia.

According to historians, Ta Mok became the regime's "enforcer", crushing cadres and communities deemed insufficiently loyal to the revolution. By the time Vietnam invaded in 1979 to topple Pol Pot, a quarter of the population had died.

Having fled to the jungle along the Thai border, the Khmer Rouge managed to last for another two decades.

Ta Mok, who had seized power in an internal putsch in 1997, was arrested two years later and taken to Phnom Penh where a military court charged him with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

However, few in Anlong Veng are prepared to believe the charges brought against a man they say did nothing but good for one of Cambodia's poorest and most remote regions.

"I will never be able to forget him, never," said Noeun Ny, 55. "He used to give me clothes, rice and fish to support my family when we were poor. I have lost a great friend."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

one leged old fool..go to hell and serve your times down there.