The Butcher: How a Senior Khmer Rouge Mass Murderer Gets Buried.
Above photo: an elaborate monument housing the tomb of Ta Mok, Brother Number 4, aka The Butcher, in Anglong Veng, Cambodia.
As part of the research for my novel BACK, I recently travelled around Cambodia looking at sites and sights of the Khmer Rouge. When I was in the north of Cambodia I went in search of the house and grave of Brother Number 4, or Ta Mok, a brutal man nicknamed “The Butcher” for his purging of the Khmer Rouge army when he was in charge of it and who also directed mass murders when the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 – 1979.
Ta Mok’s influence was felt on Cambodia long after the Khmer Rouge were deposed by the Vietnamese. He continued to direct what was left of the Khmer Rouge army which was holed up in Anlong Veng, near the Thai border, and he remained loyal to Pol Pot until he usurped Pol Pot’s authority and named himself as the commander of the Khmer Rouge. Shortly afterwards, Pol Pot died of a heart attack although rumours persist that Ta Mok might have had him poisoned.
In 1999 Ta Mok was arrested near the Thai border and sent to Phnom Penh where he was to have been one of the first senior Khmer Rouge cadres to have been tried, but his trial was repeatedly deferred and he eventually died of heart complications in 2006, becoming yet another senior Khmer Rouge cadre to have escaped justice.
His body was brought back to Anlong Veng and I wanted to see where he was buried, so after visiting his house in Anlong Veng (see link below), which was quite a disturbing experience, we drove 7 kilometers out of the town, to Tumnup Leu Village and turned off the road to find Chouk Pagoda, where we’d been told Ta Mok had been interred.
There were no signs for the Pagoda or for his grave, and we walked around for a while before stopping at an elaborate structure which covered a simple concrete grave which had a covering of earth, thinking this might be it. We went to check with the monks and they confirmed it. Apparently there are no signs as they don’t want ‘outsiders’ knowing where it is.
Apparently Ta Mok’s wealthy grandson had erected the Angkor-style mausoleum over it, presumably unashamed of the mass-murdering monster his grandfather had been.
I noted the irony that Ta Mok had been a monk at one time, and that the Khmer Rouge he had helped command had destroyed temples and Buddha statues, murdered monks, banned religion, forced monks to work in the rice fields and used pagodas and temples as torture centres and charnel houses, yet now this mass murderer was happily interred on a holy site.
I refused to take my shoes off for a photograph next to his tomb. I wasn’t giving him the respect in death he didn’t deserve in life, and I thought of all the Cambodian people who had died by his hand or under his direction and believed the world was well rid of him.
I am often struck by how avuncular these Khmer Rouge mass murderers looked in later years, and wherever possible I prefer to use photographs of them in their Khmer Rouge outfits.
I based a seemingly charming older character in BACK, called ‘Uncle’, on such a former Khmer Rouge figure, although when the backpackers who are caught by him in the Cambodian jungle find out what he’s really like, it’s already too late.
For a modern-day take on the Vietnam War, POWs/MIAs and Adventure Backpackers trekking into the war-ravaged jungles of Asia see: http://peteralanlloyd.com/back-part-2/backpackers-meet-the-vietnam-war-back-screenplay-finally-finished/
And for POWs left behind in Laos:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
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