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Mourners farewell Khmer Rouge chief - Coffee Break - 07-22-2006 03:03 PM

Mourners farewell Khmer Rouge chief

From: Agence France-Presse

By Suy Se in Anlong Veng

July 22, 2006

WITH incense sticks and prayers of forgiveness, hundreds gathered in this former Khmer Rouge stronghold to welcome back Ta Mok, the rebel warlord who died Friday in the capital Phnom Penh, where he had been jailed since 1999.

Defiance mixed with grief as the body of the former military commander who briefly led the Khmer Rouge during its final days - and was awaiting trial for his role in Cambodia's genocide - was brought back.
"Before accusing someone you have to know their good and bad," said Meas Mut, a son-in-law of Ta Mok who rose through the ranks of the Khmer Rouge military and has been accused by genocide scholars of executing his subordinates.

"We have to sum up the good and the bad before we make judgement - everybody can do wrong," he said after viewing Ta Mok, who lay under the porch of a wooden shack, his hands clasping incense sticks and money.

Ta Mok, who was 80, trained to be a teacher but took up the gun instead in the 1950s to battle French colonialism and quickly worked his way into the leadership of Cambodia's communist revolution.

He later gained a reputation for his brutality, earning the nickname "The Butcher" for his role in some of the darkest episodes of the Khmer Rouge regime, during which he is thought to have been behind some of the worst violence that saw thousands die.

Up to two million people were executed or died of starvation and overwork between 1975 and 1979 when the Khmer Rouge, then led by Pol Pot, forced millions into the countryside in their attempt to create an agrarian utopia.

But in this muddy town at the base of the Dangkrek mountains where Ta Mok sought his final refuge with a shrinking band of followers in the late 1990s, villagers remembered him as a kind man who looked out for his people.

"He was a good leader ... everyone is sorry for his death," said Neang Sun, a 46 year-old former Khmer Rouge soldier.

"I never saw him kill anybody. He always educated the people to be good and was loved and respected," he said.

The only rebel who refused to surrender or strike an amnesty deal with the government, Ta Mok was arrested in 1999 along the Thai border and had remained in detention since then awaiting trial.

Cambodian and foreign judges have been tasked with prosecuting former leaders of the regime in a tribunal that opened earlier this month, but the first trials at the UN-backed legal effort are not expected until mid-2007.

Several other key Khmer Rouge figures, including top deputy Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary, remain free in Cambodia, angering Ta Mok's supporters who say he had been unfairly jailed.

"We really felt sorry while he was detained because the other Khmer Rouge leaders lived freely," Suon Ny, another former rebel fighter, said.

As villagers continued filing through to view Ta Mok's body, discussions were underway between his family and the authorities over where he would be buried.

Fifty-year-old Sarann Chanthy broke down in tears after paying her last respects, saying "He is the one who allowed me to survive".

"When I heard the news that Ta Mok died, I was shocked and cried until I fainted," she said.

"He was very important for the villagers in Anlong Veng. Sometimes in the past I was angry with him over something, but I've lit incense to pray for his forgiveness - I wish him to go rest in a better place," she said.

News Limited


- forwardone - 07-22-2006 08:05 PM

Amazing! Papa Doc, Idi Amin, Hitler, Mugabwe, the list goes on. Kind man? This guy committed genocide. :roll:


- Coffee Break - 07-23-2006 12:10 AM

Quote:He later gained a reputation for his brutality, earning the nickname "The Butcher" for his role in some of the darkest episodes of the Khmer Rouge regime, during which he is thought to have been behind some of the worst violence that saw thousands die
:evil:

Yes I was amazed when I read the article too. I read somewhere that Cambodia now has a very young population, I guess coz the KR killed all the older people years ago and that LESS than 1 in 3 remember the KR :?