Today we have published some extracts from the 1000+ hours of taped conversation between Nuon Chea and Thet Sambath. They give further insight into topics that were more briefly dealt with in our film. They will form a part of the ‘Deleted Scenes’ that will be included in our DVD release in October.
The clips give a clear sense of how the Khmer Rouge leadership regarded some of the issues now before the UN-backed court trying Nuon Chea et al for international crimes. The two big questions, as Nuon Chea (and Pol Pot) saw them, were: the territorial and ethnic integrity of the Khmer people; and morality in social and economic affairs. Everything in the revolution (including its intense violence) can be traced back to one or both. Nuon Chea has not changed his core analysis in thirty years. This will make for a very interesting contest in the court proceedings.
By confession we mean the admissions of political betrayal by CPK cadres recorded at S21. In the vast majority of cases a full confession would be followed by summary execution. Nuon Chea agrees he used these documents for his own educational purposes. They helped him alert less senior cadres to the strategies and operations of anti-Pol Pot groupings inside the Khmer Rouge. Hence we can, perhaps for the first time, begin to see why the notorious confessions of prisoners at S21 were documented in such detail.
Thet Sambath asks whether it was reasonable. Nuon Chea replies that in any philosophical issue it is a question of proportion.
Year Zero is an apocalyptic phrase that everyone responds to. It is often thought of, incorrectly, as a Khmer Rouge phrase. It was first applied to Cambodia in a book of the same name by the French missionary François Ponchaud and later picked up by John Pilger in his celebrated documentary ‘Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia’. Thet Sambath asks Nuon Chea how he sees Year Zero. He sees it quite differently: it is the ‘zeroing’ of public immorality and disorder and economic injustice.
In Khmer the word is ‘kamchap’. It is often used as a euphemism for killing. But, once again, Nuon Chea has a different definition.
Nuon Chea expands his thoughts on the competing claims of the sovereign nation and the sovereign individual. Thet Sambath asks him whether he regrets the killing of those deemed to be working against the nation. His answer is unrepentant and shocking.
Sambath asks Nuon Chea why his revolution was so extreme. His answer in summary: any revolution worthy of the name must be extreme.
We are reviewing hundreds of hours of taped conversations with Nuon Chea (and other Khmer Rouge sources) in preparation for our follow-up film SUSPICIOUS MINDS, about the political conflict at the heart of the Khmer Rouge. As and when we come across it, we will continue to make available any material we think might be useful for public debate on this dark period of history.
He is a true-hearted communist. It is very interesting to observe an interview with someone who has had so much power, who has killed millions of people in order to achieve the unachievable. And he still does not admit being wrong or being too harsh. He had a cause to fight for yet he forgot the people who he allegedly was fighting for. Thank You so much for the movie, it really broadened my mind a bit towards understanding of how these people think. They are different. My deepest compassion for Your personal and national tragedy.
About this Blog
Thet Sambath and Rob Lemkin have spent many years making Enemies of the People and its sequels, the first insider account of the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This blog assembles further information and analysis based on their work.