Pol Pot's Heir
Suong Sikoeun is a Khmer Rouge intellectual and Pol Pot's former
assistant. Now he teaches English to the sons and daughters
of his Khmer Rouge cadre. It's a bucolic scene as Suong leads
an outdoor class under his raised house. It's also incredibly
ironic: The Khmer Rouge were so opposed to anything foreign
that they had banned the speaking of any foreign languages.
Although Suong served as a member of the foreign ministry during
the Khmer Rouge regime, he claims he didn't know about the hardships,
torture and executions people were suffering at the time. He
claims it was only when he was leading a foreign diplomat on
a guided tour of the countryside that he began to suspect some
of the disastrous effects of the Khmer Rouge policies.
see the people who didn't eat enough, the people who work very
hard, even [through] the night," he remembers. "People asked us
to bring them to Phnom Penh because it was very difficult to live
in the countryside -- hard work, summary execution and so on ..."
Suong is a small balding man with cataract-clouded eyes that
look almost blue. He has the particularly Cambodian trait of
finding just about any subject, no matter how shocking or horrible,
worthy of a chuckle.
He remembers Pol Pot as a handsome "bon vivant," although a
man who would, he says, in halting English, "talk to you white
but do black."
was very easy to live with him," he recalls. "He's a kind of
no-problem man -- no problem with him. No problem. No problem.
Even if you kill a thousand people, there be no problem." Suong
we're filming the English class, we're tipped off that one of
the girls in the second row is Pol Pot's teenage daughter. She's
been in hiding in Phnom Penh since her father's death and hasn't
been seen in public for four years. Now she's staying with relatives
here. Suong says she has "many names," but here "she goes by the
Once the girl had been pointed out to us, the resemblance was
uncanny. I had seen a picture of her from 1998, stringy-haired,
shy and suffering from chronic malaria as she mourned at her
It was amazing to see what a dramatic change she had undergone
since her days as a communist daughter in the jungle. Malee
sits giggling with her friends like any other teenager, learning
a language that might have meant a death sentence under her
Even though Malee obviously had nothing to do with any Khmer
Rouge crime, it's hard to imagine being Pol Pot's daughter in
Suong tells us not to worry. "Pol Pot has no heir," he laughs.
"No heir at all."
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