Dead Mass Murderer: A Visit to Pol Pot’s Cremation Site in Cambodia.
Pol Pot lies dead before his cremation in the Cambodian Jungle, as a Khmer Rouge soldier stands guard. (AP Photo)
I was recently in Anlong Veng, on another BACK-related research trip through Cambodia, following in the footsteps of the Khmer Rouge.
After we’d visited Ta Mok’s house (Brother Number 4) and his grave in Anlong Veng (see links below) we drove up through the Dangrek Mountains, heading to the village of Choam, to view the cremation site of Pol Pot.
Located 500 metres from the Cambodian-Thai border, the “village” was now a street full of roadside stalls on one side, and an enormous casino which had recently been built on the other (locals said it was Thai-owned).
I stopped to take photographs, because I knew when Pol Pot had died, this had been dense jungle. The whole area was the last refuge of the Khmer Rouge, very close to the Thai border and their friends in the Thai security services and military, who’d helped them as they fought a war of terror in Cambodia from their jungle hideouts.
Of course the Thais didn’t do this on their own; they had help – unsurprisingly, the Chinese were the Khmer Rouge’s biggest backers, both during their murderous regime and thereafter, as they kept the Khmer Rouge supplied with military hardware and vehicles.
The Khmer Rouge also enjoyed the tacit support of the US and the British governments and many other scumbag countries. These countries connived to allow Pol Pot’s genocidal killers to continue to occupy Cambodia’s seat at the UN, in a shameful coalition of evil, long after the Vietnamese army had deposed Pol Pot.
They did this because the US – and their browbeaten allies – were hell-bent on opposing the Vietnamese at all costs, even though they had done Cambodia and the world a favour by deposing Pol Pot and toppling the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
It was effectively a disgraceful Vietnam War Loser’s sulk on the US’s part, although the Chinese were actually longtime supporters of the Khmer Rouge too.
All that didn’t seem like ancient history as we pulled off the road and bounced up a dirt track to discover the site of Pol Pot’s cremation.
Pol Pot had died (or been murdered or had killed himself, depending on who you talk to) in 1998, after a Khmer Rouge trial for the killing of one of his subordinates, Son Sen, and his family. He was in the custody of Ta Mok when he died.
I noted the irony that these butchers were happy to “try” their own, but even today they conspire with their friends in the Cambodian government to ensure that few of the senior members of the Khmer Rouge (except for Comrade Duch, who wasn’t all that senior and therefore probably expendable) are tried and convicted before the International court set up in Phnom Penh.
We travelled along the dirt track a little way off the main road, and shortly arrived at a small booth, where I overcame my deep unhappiness at having to pay to see this mass murderer’s final resting place, and stumped up the $2 entry fee. We then walked up a well-maintained path and saw the site of Pol Pot’s cremation.
It was just a patch of grey earth, covered by a rusting grey corrugated iron roof, and surrounded by upturned glass bottles. There were three simple shrines erected nearby.
The basic cremation site was in stark contrast to the hypocritical finery of Ta Mok’s grave in a Buddhist temple, which I also visited (see below).
In front of the cremation site was a sign in Khmer, saying “Please everybody take care.”
Our guide explained it was a request to keep the grave site tidy and not to disrespect it. “Another unwarranted courtesy to another mass-murdering Khmer Rouge c*nt,” I thought, but I wasn’t going to piss on it anyway.
In fact I think it’s extremely important that Cambodia does maintain these sites for future generations, as a reminder of what driven, ruthless, power-crazy lunatics are capable of if they can seize control of a country. I also hope my novel BACK does that in a small way.
On the way back, our driver begged us to go into the casino for some gambling. I thought the Thai owners must be paying massive commissions for people to bring in punters, but with thoughts of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge and their murdered victims swarming round my head, this was an easy visit to decline.
For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia, see the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil:
And for POWs left behind in Laos:
For other articles on the Khmer Rouge, type “Khmer Rouge” into the search engine on the top right of my site.
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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