through archived FRONTLINE/World conversations around
this story below, including responses from the reporter.
Michael Bilos - Estes Park, Colorado
I left the U.S. in January of 1999 for a 4 month backpacking
trip to Southeast Asia. At the time, the UN was on the brink
of bringing former Khmer Rouge leaders to trial, a move
that I was fully in support of. That is, until I visited
In my three weeks there, it became clear to me that all
of the former Khmer Rouge leaders were now in positions
of power, e.g., mayors, police chiefs, business owners,
etc..., and that if prosecuted, they would simply take up
arms once again.
To support my position, it was not uncommon to come across
stockpiles of unguarded weopons ready for anyone to use.
I personally sat in a Russian-made rocket launcher with
ammunition available (that was sitting in a field near the
road), and also came across an ammunitions depot loaded
with a battery of weapons (I have photos if you want to
So, in conclusion, my impression is that the Cambodian people
want to bury the past and move on, otherwise, the situation
could all too easily get out of hand.
Thank you for your outstanding programs!
Troyan - Indianapolis, Indiana
The communist origins of the Khmer Rouge are mentioned somewhere
toward the end of the piece. The regime is gingerly labeled
as an "agrarian utopia." The murderous program of social
engineering is reduced to specific people's (i.e. Brother
No. 2) homicidal instincts. Something similar to reducing
Nazism to Hitlers' individual psychology. Not a peep about
the true origin of the massacre: a leftist ideology bent
on "classicide," as The Black Book of Communist aptly labels
it, refined in Paris, developed in Beijing, prototyped in
Hanoi and applied in Phnom Phen. Instead, the origins of
the conflict are, as is expected on PBS, in the American
intervention in Indochina, prominently illustrated with
footage of American bombing runs. Some contributors to this
page parrot the party line that the "devil (read, US) made
them do it." How about the early Vietnamese support for
the Khmer Rouge?
Tyler - Denver, Colorado
Well, now you know what `Khmer Rouge' means. One only has
to see the movie The Killing Fields to learn this. The Khmer
educated children and adults to `forget what you know. Be
like the ox, unconcerned with anything but working hard.
It is now 'the year zero.' Children were placed in positions
of informing on unpatriotic members of the population.
Cambodia, right up until the early 1960s was one of the
wealthiest countries in southeast Asia. Forget about digging
in the mud for gemstone grains. Cambodia grew so much rice
that it had plenty to export to the rest of the region.
One can only wonder how a former imperial Cambodia would
have responded to the emerging modern world of the 1960s
and 1970s, villas, thoroughfares, and all.
Hedinger - Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I was a little surprised that the Producer actually expected
the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders to show some kind of remorse
for the TV cameras. Why should they? How many of the guilty
Nazi war criminals would actually admit guilt or remorse
on television? Or former Soviet commanders and/or guards
from the Gulag camps? I don't think any of these people
would actually readily admit these things.
Amanda Pike responds:
Thank you for your question and interest in the story.
On the contrary, I didn't expect any of the Khmer Rouge
leaders to show remorse or express guilt. As I said in
the piece, without a trial "the man who helped direct
a genocide is unlikely to ever speak honestly." What did
surprise me somewhat were not people's denials of personal
responsibility but their denials of the whole group's
responsibility, the claim that the Khmer Rouge didn't
commit the killings. It's like interviewing German concentration
camp guards and having them say, yes, true, six million
Jews died there, but it wasn't me -- it was the Americans
and the French who came into our country and killed them.
Roberts - Zanesville, Ohio
This is a story that should not go away. To deprive the
children of Cambodia of their history is terrible. To not
tell them of the atrocities, still so recent, is unforgivable.
I think the U.N. has dropped the ball once again, yet another
blemish on a less than stellar record.
Robinson - Seattle, Washington
One reason Pol Pot and other high ranking cadres of the
Khmer Rouge were never brought to justice may be due to
the United States involvement in Cambodia prior to 1976.
Although the bombing campaigns which occurred in "neutral"
Cambodia are well known, I believe the full extent of these
actions would of been explored during war crimes tribunals
to the detriment of US officials.
Mony Vann - Bridgeport, Connecticut
Thank you for reminding the world that the killing happened,
and that the world is not just.
Part of Cambodia's history is America's involvement in the
support of Pol Pot. We felt that he was against "Communism"
and we provided him with the weapons and intelligence to
conduct the atrocities that were committed. Pol Pot took
the entire population of Phnom Penh and march them out to
the jungle - hence, the killing fields. I caught this "well
done" presentation after it started but America shares part
of the blame for what happened and this should have been
brought out (if it wasn't) during this documentary. Yes,
we should revisit it's history and all parties involved
should share the blame.
Chey Sopheara has asked "for funds to renovate this building
and to maintain the documents so that the young generation
will be educated and this will not happen again."
I can find no information on how to safely provide financial
help to the museum. Let me know how I can help. Thank you!
Amanda Pike responds:
Tuol Sleng Museum and The Documentation Center of Cambodia
have started a joint renovation project to restore the
areas of the museum that are beginning to fall apart and
to preserve the physical evidence there, at an estimated
cost of $274,000. To lend your support, you can contact
Youk Chhang, Director of DC-Cam at DCCAM@bigpond.com.kh.
Youk Chhang and his staff have been the premiere organization
in Cambodia working to compile a definitive record of
the atrocities. So far, they have documented 167 former
prisons, 19,440 mass graves; interviewed countless survivors
and perpetrators and collected over 600,000 pages of Khmer
Rouge documents and artifacts. You can find out more about
their work on their website at www.dccam.org.
That is a different world. It is existence at the survival
level. The people who killed before would not hesitate to
kill again. Unfortunately, the survivors don't have the
education, or means, to remove themselves from the area.
Arant - Lanesville, Indiana
A wonderful, touching, and spine tingling segment on the
remnants of the Khmer Rouge. Super video and thoughtful
use of interviews with ordinary Cambodians without the translations
drowning out the Khmer, a rarity indeed. Nate Thayer hit
the mark on Nuon Chea, and Amanda Pike's meeting with "Brother
Number 2" confirmed all that Nate had to say. The Documentation
Center of Cambodia (dccam.org) is doing remarkable field
research on crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime every day,
and has begun publishing its findings in English. I wish
there had been time for Frontline to mention the four Americans
killed At Tuol Sleng during 1978, the American journalists
captured by the Khmer Rouge during the early 1970s, the
three Marines left behind on Tang Island in May, 1978. Perhaps
Reporter Amanda Pike responds:
Thank you very much for your comments. You're absolutely
right- the United States has certainly had a long and
complicated role in Cambodia's history, especially regarding
the Khmer Rouge. To your list we could also add the US
support of the Khmer Rouge coalition government until
1990 as well as the US policy of blocking a genocide trial
in order to impose sanctions on the Vietnamese-backed
government in Phnom Penh. Unfortunately, those elements
are outside the scope of what we could cover in this 25-minute
segment. However, this piece was excerpted from a feature
length work-in-progress. The longer version will have
the space to deal more thoroughly with America's varied
role in Cambodian history.
Morgan - Norwood, Massachusetts
I don't think that a country can move forward without looking
back. As Cambodian Americans who write on your Web site
attest, this is still a sore memory in the minds of many.
Why won't the U.N. help Cambodia by pushing a war crimes
tribunal? The international system needs to take responsibility
for the havoc its actors sometimes wreak. If Cambodia has
a weak judiciary system, its only the result of decades
of mired politics.
Reading about this story on the Web site, I don't understand
how someone could live next door to the person they believed
killed their husband. How is this possible? What kind of
existence is this?