After being ousted in 1979 the Khmer Rouge became an insurgent force. When the Vietnamese invaded and toppled the Pol Pot-led government in 1979, remnants of the regime and its military fled to Cambodia's border with Thailand. There they launched an insurgency that endured until the last of the movement surrendered in December 1998. The insurgency battled the Cambodian government until 1991. During that period millions of Cambodians lived in refugee camps.

Patrick Falby of AFP wrote: Remnants of the regime, supplied with weapons and food from China as well as the United States, continued to fight the Vietnam-installed government. The Khmer Rouge banded together with forces opposed to the Vietnam-installed government through the 1980s, often using sanctuaries in neighbouring Thailand, and occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations. But its power eroded as it chose not to participate in 1992 elections run by a UN peacekeeping force. "Brother Number One" Pol Pot died in 1998, the same year the last of the Khmer Rouge force imploded as senior leaders defected to Cambodia's government. "The scandal is that countries were supporting the Khmer Rouge until 1989," Francois Ponchaud, a French Catholic priest and author of the book "Cambodia: Year Zero", told AFP. [Source: Patrick Falby, AFP, February 18, 2009]

Dustin Roasa wrote in the Washington Post: “As Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary directed the guerrilla war from their bases in western Cambodia's mountains and jungles, Ta Mok cultivated a following in Anlong Veng. But in the mid-1990s, after a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement led to the country's first democratic elections in 1993, large groups of Khmer Rouge fighters began defecting to the government, culminating in the surrenders of Ieng Sary in 1996 and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in 1998. Pol Pot died of natural causes in 1998, and Ta Mok, who had held out, was captured by government forces in 1999 in the nearby Dangrek Mountains. He died in a Phnom Penh prison in 2006 while awaiting trial. [Source: Dustin Roasa, Washington Post, December 1, 2010]

Khmer Rouge During the 1980s

Between 1979 and 1991, the Khmer Rouge was supported directly by China and indirectly by Thailand and United States as part coalition against the Vietnamese-backed Cambodian government and Soviet-influence in the region. The Khmer Rouge was given substantial amounts of food and medica aid, which helped it keep going. Representatives form the Khmer Rouge even occupied Cambodia's seat at the United Nations and the Khmer Rouge flag flew at the United Nations building in New York.

In 1980, the Khmer Rouge announced that it was no longer Communist. It said it favored market economics, democracy and religious tolerance. In 1982, they joined forces with two non-communist groups and former a shadow government led by Prince Sihanouk. In propaganda broadcast from Khmer Rouge radio station, the rebel group blamed Cambodia's problems on the country's traditional enemy, Vietnam, and the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese that live in Cambodia." About 40,000 Cambodians who fled the Khmer Rouge in territory they occupied lived in refugee camps in Thailand.

David P. Chandler, author of the definitive biography on Pol Pot told the New York Times, "It's enormously offensive. If Cambodia were full of diamonds or uranium, somebody would have done something about him long a ago. But it's not. It's Cambodia, so nobody gives a hoot."

Many Khmer Rouge were forced to fight against their will Some were shackled to their tanks so they would flee. Some Khmer Rouge fighter though the impervious to death and would casually stroll through mine fields to buy a pack of cigarettes.

The KCP, synonymous with the Khmer Rouge, was the largest and strongest component of the CGDK in 1987. In December 1981, however, the party had announced its dissolution, citing the incompatibility of communism with Democratic Kampuchea's anti-Vietnamese united front line. It is difficult to ascertain whether the KCP was indeed disbanded because the Khmer Rouge always were secretive. The change of name to the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (PDK) probably was a cosmetic gesture aimed at regaining international respectability following the party's imposition of a brutal regime on Cambodia from 1975 to 1978. The party's essential continuity was probable because the PDK leadership remained identical to that of its predecessor, the KCP, and the most important party leader — Pol Pot — exercised a shadowy, but powerful, influence behind the scenes in 1987 just as he had in the 1970s. Fragmentary accounts that reached the outside world hinted that, despite the name change, the party continued to treat refugees and peasants under its control with a harshness and an arbitrariness that showed little more concern for human rights than that of the former communist government of Cambodia. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

In the name of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge issued a comprehensive conciliatory policy statement on July 6, 1985. It noted that the "Democratic Kampuchea side" expressed readiness to hold peace talks with Vietnam — but only after Vietnam's complete withdrawal from Cambodia — and indicated willingness to welcome "other Cambodians, including Heng Samrin and his group" as long as they no longer served the Vietnamese. Referring to the future of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge side hinted for the first time that it might accept exclusion from a postwar government that might include the Heng Samrin regime. The Khmer Rouge also expressed greater openness to the establishment of a new Cambodia with a parliamentary and liberal capitalist system. *

The Khmer Rouge's principal leaders, from July 1985, were Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, and Son Sen, in addition to Pol Pot who operated behnind the scenes. Khieu Samphan was concurrently chairman of the State Presidium, prime minister of Democratic Kampuchea, provisional chairman of the PDFGNUK, and vice president in charge of foreign affairs of the CGDK. Son Sen served as commander in chief of the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK) and, in that capacity, as the Khmer Rouge chairman on the Coordinating Committee for National Defense. Ieng Sary served as Democratic Kampuchea's deputy prime minister in charge of foreign affairs and as its chairman on the Coordinating Committee for Economy and Finance. Other key figures included Ieng Thirith (also known as Khieu Thirith, reportedly related to Khieu Sampan), wife of Ieng Sary and head of Democratic Kampuchea's Red Cross Society; Ta Mok (also known as Chhet Choeun), vice chairman and chief of the general staff of the NADK and reportedly Pol Pot's right-hand man; and Nuon Chea (also known as Long Reth) — a political hardliner loyal to Pol Pot — chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Representative Assembly of Democratic Kampuchea. Pol Pot, formerly prime minister, the KCP's general secretary, and commander in chief of the NADK, headed the Higher Institute for National Defense from September 1985 onward. Although reportedly in failing health and in Beijing-induced retirement in China in 1987, Pol Pot was still the power behind the scenes, according to some observers. *

Ieng Sary's status in 1987 was unclear because he had not been seen in public since August 1985. For years Ieng Sary and Pol Pot were named by their adversaries as the two figures most responsible for mass murders in Cambodia, and Hanoi and the Heng Samrin regime insisted on their exclusion from any future political accommodation with the CGDK. *

Khmer Rouge’s Struggle Against the Vietnamese-Backed Cambodia Government

In January 1979, Khmer Rouge leaders announced the formation of the Patriotic and Democratic Front of the Great National Union of Kampuchea (PDFGNUK), a popular front organization in which the Kampuchean (or Khmer) Communist Party (KCP), under Pol Pot planned to play a dominant role. [Source: Library of Congress, December 1987 *]

As part of an image-rebuilding effort, the Khmer Rouge announced the replacement, in December 1979, of Prime Minister Pol Pot with the politically moderate Khieu Samphan. The replacement did not affect Pol Pot's position as leader of the KCP or his control of the Khmer Rouge armed forces, officially called the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK). Khieu Samphan retained his position as president of the State Presidium of Democratic Kampuchea, a post equivalent to head of state under the 1975 constitution of Democratic Kampuchea. At about the same time, it also was disclosed that the political program of the PDFGNUK, adopted in December, would serve as the provisional fundamental law of Democratic Kampuchea until free elections could be held. Sihanouk described the episode as a ploy designed to give the Khmer Rouge's "odious face" a mask of respectability. *

According to Lonely Planet: In 1984 the Vietnamese overran all the major rebel camps inside Cambodia, forcing the Khmer Rouge and its allies to retreat into Thailand. From this time the Khmer Rouge and its allies engaged in guerrilla warfare aimed at demoralising their opponents. Tactics used by the Khmer Rouge included shelling government-controlled garrison towns, planting thousands of mines in rural areas, attacking road transport, blowing up bridges, kidnapping village chiefs and targeting civilians. The Khmer Rouge also forced thousands of men, women and children living in the refugee camps it controlled to work as porters, ferrying ammunition and other supplies into Cambodia across heavily mined sections of the border. The Vietnamese for their part laid the world’s longest minefield, known as K-5 and stretching from the Gulf of Thailand to the Lao border, in an attempt to seal out the guerrillas. They also sent Cambodians into the forests to cut down trees on remote sections of road to prevent ambushes. Thousands died of disease and from injuries sustained from land mines. The Khmer Rouge was no longer in power, but for many the 1980s was almost as tough as the 1970s, one long struggle to survive. [Source: Lonely Planet +]

During the mid-1980s the British government dispatched the Special Air Service (SAS) to a Malaysian jungle camp to train guerrilla fighters in land mine–laying techniques. Although officially assisting the smaller factions, it is certain the Khmer Rouge benefited from this experience. It then used these new-found skills to intimidate and terrorise the Cambodian people. The USA gave more than US$15 million a year in aid to the noncommunist factions of the Khmer Rouge-dominated coalition. +

Fighting Between the KPNLF and the Khmer Rouge

From its inception in October 1979, the right-wing, proWestern , former prime minister Son Sann, noted for his integrity and for his unyielding personality, led the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF). The organization was the strongest of the country's noncommunist resistance forces. Its key figures were formerly prominent in the administrations of Sihanouk and of republican leader Lon Nol. A number of displaced Cambodians sheltered in temporary camps on Thai soil near the Thai-Cambodian border backed the KPNLF, which had originated in the anti-Khmer Rouge movement of the 1960s. It controlled about 160,000 civilians confined at "Site 2," a camp in Thailand barely a kilometer from the Cambodian border. Most of the people in the camp were toughened survivors of the Pol Pot era, and they were therefore a potential pool from which to recruit armed rebels for the KPNLF. *

In the 1984 to 1985 Vietnamese dry-season offensive, the KPNLF reportedly lost nearly a third of its 12,000 to 15,000 troops in battle and through desertions. This setback, which was blamed on Son Sann for his alleged meddling in military matters, aggravated the long-standing personality conflicts within the KPNLF. Some KPNLF members criticized Son Sann's alleged tendency toward being dictatorial and unbending, and they questioned his lukewarm attitude toward the idea of a unified military command that included Sihanouk's ANS. Criticism mounted after reports that some of the organization's field commanders were involved in the black market and in other forms of corruption. Charges of human rights violations in the KPNLF-run camps for displaced persons further fueled internal dissension. *

In December 1985, a dissident faction, wanting to limit Son Sann's role to ceremonial duties, announced the formation of a Provisional Central Committee of Salvation, which would be the new executive body of the KPNLF. The new group asserted that it had seized power from Son Sann in order to put an end to the internal problems of the KPNLF. Key members of the group included two KPNLF vice presidents: General Sak Sutsakhan, formerly Lon Nol's chief of staff; and General Dien Del, commander in chief and chief of staff of the KPNLF armed forces. Other notables were Abdul Gaffar Peangmeth and Hing Kunthon, two executive committee members whom Son Sann had dismissed earlier, and Huy Kanthoul, a former prime minister. *

Son Sann countered with the formation of a new military command committee under General Prum Vith. He said, however, that General Sak would remain as commander in chief of the Joint Military Command (that now included the ANS), which was launched in January 1986, reportedly as a concession to the dissident group. Under a compromise worked out through a third party, General Sak regained his control of the armed forces in March 1986. Son Sann, then seventy-four years old, withdrew a previous threat to resign as CGDK prime minister. By early 1987, unity in the KPNLF had been restored, and Son Sann retained his presidency, while General Sak remained in full control of the military. *

In a major reshuffle of the military high command in March, General Sak placed his deputy, Dien Del, in charge of anticorruption measures. The need for sweeping internal reform already had become a pressing issue in January 1987, when morale was so low that several hundred KPNLF soldiers defected to Sihanouk's ANS. *

Disabled in Fighting Between the KPNLF and the Khmer Rouge

In the civil war that followed the Khmer Rouge fall in 1979, Khieu Sarath set off a land mine during a firefight, writhing in pain for 16 days in a remote jungle until help arrived. Then they tied his hands to a tree. "My leg was cut like raw meat with a hack saw, without any injections," says the 48-year-old former soldier.

"When I lost my leg, I didn't want to live on this earth anymore," says Khieu Sarath. "Before I lost my leg my friends called me 'friend,' but when I became a disabled man even my close friends would call out, "One legged-man, where are you going?'" In the mid-1970s the Khmer Rouge executed his father because he allowed cows he was tending to stray into a cornfield, and his starving mother because she stole a cup of porridge from the communal kitchen. His two sisters were killed for taking a nap after grueling hours building a dam.

Khmer Rouge Cadre After the Khmer Rouge Was Ousted

Som Bunthorn of Searching for the Truth magazine wrote: “In early 1979, Poch brought his family and relatives to Boh Pong forest, Baray Leu district. Soon afterward his wife, Sol, and two of their children died of malaria. Then Poch was appointed Baray district chief responsible for receiving KR forces from various sub- districts. After seeing numerous injured and dead soldiers, Poch announced, “Those who are not able to tolerate the conditions here can go back, and those who can stand the situation can stay.” In 1980, Poch was assigned to control the forces in Kampong Cham and Kampong Thom province. Afterward, Ke Pok ca me to supervise the soldiers himself and selected Poch to be his under-secretary. Poch also became responsible for persuading people to join the Khmer Rouge forces. [Source: Som Bunthorn, Documentation Center of Cambodia Magazine : Searching for the Truth , September , 2008]

In 1987, while Poch was fighting on the battlefield in O’Angkrang village, Khvav sub-district, Chikreng district of Siem Reap province, he stepped on a mine and was sent for treatment at O’Trav Ko 7 Camp. As a result he lost a leg. After recovering, he was appointed to manage seventeen families of Khmer Roug e soldiers. Eventually, his commander was captured by the government’s forces, so Poch fled to live with the villagers. Because Poch had done good deeds, some people gave him rice, dried and salted fish, and helped to hide his background as a former Khmer Rouge cadre. To date, villagers in Baray and Taing Kok districts still visit him sometimes. [Ibid]

Female Comrade After the Ouster of the Khmer Rouge

Describing the fate of Mousa Sokha aka Sun Sokha, a former president of a women’s sub-district association in Democratic Kampuchea (DK) Regime, Bunsou Sour of the Documentation Center of Cambodia wrote: After returning to her homestead in 1979, the couple lived comfortably, and even owned a house with a tile roof. But their prosperity was short lived. They were cheated by a friend working in the Ministry of Interior. Troubles began to creep into their family. Sokha's husband became despondent due to the complete loss of their wealth they had saved for a long time. Sokha was responsible for the debts. Their remaining property was sold to pay those debts. With no money, they built a small hut in Krasaing Sre Veng village, Dambe sub-district, Kampong Cham province, and ran a small business earning just enough for their daily needs. In 1985, Sokha decided to act as a "double-faced person". In her area, former Khmer Rouge and ordinary people lived together. The people living there learnt to adapt themselves to the environment, otherwise they would have troubles. [Source: Bunsou Sour, Documentation Center of Cambodia,^^]

“Sokha said that a provincial police superintendent (1985), named Ly, employed her as his spy. At the same time, with the Khmer Rouge, she helped to sell their equipment, such as radios and walkie-talkies, and sometimes exchange money from dollar currency to Riel currency for them. The Khmer Rouge used the money to pay the salaries to their rank and file. Sokha worked, as well, with Nuon Pet (aka Khann Soeun) in division 920 and Long Yin in division 1003. Acting as a spy for the State of Kampuchea and as a trader for the Khmer Rouge, Sokha went in and out of the forest and Phnom Penh in order to observe the Khmer Rouge and to buy and sell goods for the Khmer Rouge. She said that she used to report to the State of Kampuchea to raid a position of the Khmer Rouge in the forest. Sokha also claimed that she sold dollar currency for Riel at O Reusey Market, at a house of [former official] managing director of rubber plantation. Her life as a spy and trader was full of dangers. ^^

“Sokha's life was like those of other spies, whose fatal day awaited. One day, she brought into her house two Khmer Rouge soldiers, 920 and his messenger. She said that before doing so, she had informed the [national] police already. This Khmer Rouge wanted to meet their colleagues in Phnom Penh. However, this attempt was aborted. They were all arrested and caged. Sokha asserted that they arrested even her because they wanted to earn a good reputation. Relevant to the documents relating to Nuon Chea, which she took from the Khmer Rouge, Sokha confirmed that she had offered them to the provincial authorities already. ^^

“When Sokha was holding a position as a chief of "elderly unit" she seemed happy and proud. However, due to her difficult living condition of today, she had to stop thinking about the revolution anymore, and spend much more time caring for her family. She spoke in sadness that she'll never regret about the efforts she made for the revolution, but she is disappointed with her present life: "I have never been remorseful about my life in the revolution. But for some reason, I just have a bad feeling. I struggled in the past… and now I am poor. Now, I need a job to promote my family's living condition." ^^

Khieu Samphan After the Khmer Rouge

Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge head of state, pledged allegiance to the Cambodian government in 1998 and left the Khmer Rouge. In 2002 Khieu Samphan lived near Nuon Chea in a house with a television. He said, “I survive not because I borrow money, or ask my friends for money, and when I get enough I will pay them back...I can’t go anywhere because I have no money...My wife goes to the fields every day. I stay at home alone.” Later he earned some money from his memoirs, which sold among his victims.

Khieu Samphan was arrested on November 12, 2007 for crimes against humanity, genocide and violations of the Geneva Convention. At that time her lived near Pailin, once the Khmer Rouge's stronghold, without guards in a small rectangular house on a narrow lot. Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Khieu Samphan, 76, lives alone with his wife, whom he met when she was a cook in a jungle bunker in 1973, soon after U.S. Air Force B-52s began covert bombing raids against guerrilla sanctuaries in Cambodia. [Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2007]

The U.S. bombing of Cambodia is at least partly to blame for what happened in Cambodia. Khieu Samphan argued. "I think the responsibility must be shared to be just," he said. Insisting that he was only a powerless Khmer Rouge figurehead, Khieu Samphan said he and other leaders did what was necessary to save their country. [Ibid]

See Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Nuon Chea After the Khmer Rouge

In 1998, Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue and the No.2 man to Pol Pot during the waning years of the Khmer Roug, reached an agreement with the Cambodian Government which allowed him to live near the Thai border. In December of that year, following a bargain with the government, Chea surrendered as part of the last remnants of Khmer Rouge resistance and in a press conference after the deal expressed a terse statement of sorrow for the suffering of Cambodians. The government under Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former member of the Khmer Rouge, agreed to forsake attempts to prosecute Chea; a decision that was condemned by sections of Cambodians and the international community. Although implicated by former subordinates and documents in crimes against humanity, he lived for years as a free man in a modest home in Pailin with his wife near the Thailand border.

In 2002, Nuon Chea lived in a house with no television with his wife of 49 years. He told AP, “I live to advise my children and my family and encourage them all to follow the law...but mostly I do nothing, because I am old and frail.” On his freedom Indochina expert Nayan Chanda said, "Imagine Germany in 1946 with Himmler walking free."

Describing a meeting with Nuon Chea in 2006, Evan Osnos wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “In a thin white shirt and plaid sarong, he sat in the living room on a plastic chair. The tablecloth on the dining table was adorned with pictures of teddy bears. He showed alternating flashes of defiance and remorse — contrasting hints that in court he might either clam up or speak freely. He dismissed any mention of the word genocide but conceded he has regrets. "I have remorse. And pain," he said as his wife played with a grandchild nearby. "It's not enough just to say that I'm remorseful. I will say more [in court]." [Source: Evan Osnos, Chicago Tribune, February 17, 2006]

Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Nuon Chea lives with his wife of more than 40 years, guarded by half a dozen plainclothes Interior Ministry police. When a Times reporter stopped by recently, the guards were passing the time playing cards and listening to a portable radio in the shade of a bamboo and corrugated-tin shelter. Nearby, a rusting metal sign warned in Khmer: "No Entry Without Permission." Chief guard Un Sok, an elderly man wearing a National AIDS Authority T-shirt, said Nuon Chea was too ill to be interviewed. But a nephew reached him by phone to relay a few questions....Brother No. 2 was full of praise for political and economic development in the new Cambodia. But "there are some obstacles," he said, without naming them. [Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, August 12, 2007]

See Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Ieng Sary After the Khmer Rouge

When the Khmer Rouge regime fell in 1979, Ieng fled to Thailand and was convicted of genocide and sentenced to death by the People's Revolutionary Tribunal of Phnom Penh. Ieng remained a member of the Khmer Rouge government in exile until 1996 when he was granted a royal pardon for his conviction and royal amnesty for this outlawing of the Khmer Rouge.

Ieng Sary surrendered in 1996 as part of an amnesty deal. At the time the surrender was welcomed because it signaled the effective end of the Khmer Rouge fighting force. He was pardoned by King Norodom Sihanouk. Ieng Sary’s wife Ieng Thirith remained with the Khmer Rouge until her husband, Ieng Sary, was pardoned by the Cambodian government. After that she and Sary lived together near Phnom Penh until both were arrested by Cambodian police and tribunal officials on November 12, 2007. Before his arrest in 2007, Mr. Ieng Sary said: “I have done nothing wrong. I am a gentle person. I believe in good deeds. I even performed good deeds to save several people’s lives.”

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “After the Khmer Rouge were ousted, Mr. Ieng Sary continued a civil war against the new government until he surrendered with thousands of troops in 1996 in return for the king’s pardon. Until his arrest he had lived openly in a villa in Phnom Penh, traveling often to Thailand for medical treatment. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, March 14, 2013]

In March 2013, “Ieng Sary died in a hospital in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he had been taken from his holding cell. He was 87. His lawyers said he was hospitalized with gastrointestinal problems on March 4. Mr. Ieng Sary had long been treated for heart problems and other ailments. His death was announced by the special tribunal trying him, with United Nations backing. [Ibid]

See Khmer Rouge tribunal

Ta Mok After the Khmer Rouge Was Ousted

Ta Mok, the military leader of the Khmer Rouge known as “The Butcher,” continued to lead guerrillas against successive governments in Phnom Penh despite losing a leg to a land mine in the early 1980s. After the Khmer Rouge movement began falling into disarray in 1996, Ta Mok toppled Pol Pot in a violent power struggle and forced other leaders of the group into joining him. But the government was able to capture the group’s last stronghold, at Anlong Veng, soon after Pol Pot’s death in April 1998, forcing Ta Mok to flee. He was captured and jailed the next year.

Ta Mok showed no hesitation in taking Pol Pot prisoner and denigrating him after his death. “He has no power and no rights any longer,” Ta Mok said after Pol Pot’s body was unceremoniously burned. “He is nothing more than cow dung. Actually, cow dung is more useful because it can be used as fertilizer.”

After his death in July 2006, Reuters reported: "Ta Mok passed away this morning. He was an old man and died of natural causes, given his poor health and respiratory problems," military doctor Tuoth Nara said. Ta Mok and others retained support in strongholds on the Thai border such as Anlong Veng, where they are revered as national heroes who took on old enemy Vietnam. "Our grandpa told us when he dies he wants to be buried at Anlong Veng where people love him. It was his last home," his 27-year-old grandson Sun Kosal said. The body set off from Phnom Penh for Anlong Veng in an ambulance and was expected to be buried there this weekend. He held out as a self-styled warlord in Anlong Veng until he was arrested in 1999. [Source: Reuters, July 21, 2006]

Pol Pot During the 1980s and 1990s

Pol Pot was reportedly allowed to escape to Thailand in 1978 with the tacit approval of the United States, as part of their anti-Vietnamese campaign. From his jungle hideout, Pol Pot vowed to fight "for eternity of necessary."

During much of the 1980s, Pol Pot lived in Thailand where he was known as a “peasant” , or ghost. He lived in a Thai-army-built compound near the border town of Trat. Labeled "Office 87," the compound was surrounded by Thai and Khmer Rouge soldiers. Office 87 was also as a training center for new Khmer Rouge recruits. Former students their recall Pol Pot for his kindliness and his "mesmerizing" lectures on the Vietnamese "dogs."

In 1985, the Khmer Rouge announced that Pol Pot had retired but no has studied the Khmer Rouge closely believes it. The retirement is believed to have a ploy to convince the outside world that the Khmer Rouge had reformed and left its murderous past behind it. There were also many rumors that he was dead, and years passed without any word or sightings of him.

It is believed that the United States could have launched a snatch operation anytime when Pol Pot was in Thailand and arrested him.

Fighting in Cambodia the 1980s and 1990s

The Khmer Rouge kept fighting through the 1980s and 90s. Philip Shenon wrote in the New York Times, Pol Pot's "most effective weapons are the terror that he can unleash almost at will in the countryside, and the hypnotic loyalty of a handful of ruthless disciples.” Khmer Rouge reportedly often roamed within 20 miles of Angkor Wat but were kept from advancing any closer to the temples by a large force of Cambodian army soldiers that encircle the temple complex.

Tanks sometimes parked in front of Angkor Wat. Describing a visit to Angkor Wat in 1990, journalist Roger Warner wrote in Smithsonian magazine, "The sun rose and we watched as Buddhist monks with shaved heads and saffron robes quietly appeared. Then, in the distance we heard a gunshot. Somebody hunting birds," our guide assured us. 'Really.' he added, seeing the doubt on our faces.'

That night Warner wrote: “I lay under the mosquito net, drowsy and content. And then it came, like a boom of sudden thunder,. A moment's silence, followed by a noise resembling a jet engine's high-pitched whine: NNNNRRRRrrrrrrr descending in pitch, as the rocket fell lower and lower. Then there was another gap of silence, followed by an explosion as the projectile hit the ground."

"I jumped out of bed," Warner continued, "looked from the balcony, saw nothing, hurried back in. Dogs were barking furiously. It sounded as though the rocket had landed nearby, maybe even the hotel grounds. In the distance, I heard the crump of outgoing mortar fire, followed by a second crump, and finally the low rumble of government tanks or personnel carriers heading for the spot from which the rocket was fired."

Khmer Rouge and Trade with Thailand

The Khmer Rouge remained alive in 1980s and 1990 with money from trade through Thailand. Gems and timber were transported into Thailand, as part of secret trade that has brought in millions of dollars for the Khmer Rouge and a select of group of Thai businessmen and army officers. In early 1995, it was believed that 16 Thai gem-mining companies were digging in Khmer Rouge-controlled territory in Cambodia. A Khmer Rouge defector said, "The Thai support the Khmer Rouge 100 percent. They are like an artery that provides blood to the Khmer Rouge."

One Thai gem merchant told Philip Shenon of the New York Times, "I think the world lies about the Khmer Rouge—they are really good people." While holding a beautiful star ruby he said was sold to him by the Khmer Rouge, he added, "Why should I care about the internal problems of Cambodia. That is not my country."

"For the Thai Army," wrote Shenon, "Pol Pot is the best sort of business partner—reliable and publicity shy." A former Thai army commander has reportedly ordered to Pol Pot as a "good man, a very misunderstood man."

Even though the Thai government banned trade with the Khmer Rouge the government still authorized permits for Thai companies to import timber from taken from Khmer Rouge-controlled areas of Cambodia. The brutal Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok had the calendars of Thai banks in his house.

In 1994, Thai police stopped a Thai truck with weapons on their way to the Khmer Rouge. The Thai army the admitted that the weapons came from its warehouses, but said they had been taken without authorization, and explanation many diplomats found hard to believe. [Source: Philip Shenon, New York Times]

Corruption and the Khmer Rouge

"In 1990," one Khmer Rouge defector told the New York Times, "many people in the Khmer Rouge became corrupt. the commanders would begin to tax the villagers, tax them for every tree that was cut down. And even with all this money, there was not enough food for us soldiers."

Defectors in 1994 said that the upper echelon of the Khmer Rouge remains loyal, committed, intact and unsullied by allegations of corruption, but also said the chain of command and support on the countryside is breaking down. Chaos has broken out in the lower ranks and many low level Khmer Rouge commanders have turned to corruption and indiscriminate violence.

Corruption was nothing new. One survivor wrote in “Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields”: “While the entire population was dying of starvation, disease and helplessness, the Khmer Rouge was creating a new upper class...They were crazed with gold, jewelry, perfume, imported watches, Western medicine, cars. Motorcycles, bicycles, silk an other imported goods.”

Tourists Killed by the Khmer Rouge in the Mid-1990s

Lonely Planet reported: “In 1994 the Khmer Rouge resorted to a new tactic of targeting tourists, with horrendous results for a number of foreigners in Cambodia. During 1994 three people were taken from a taxi on the road to Sihanoukville and subsequently shot. A few months later another three foreigners were seized from a train bound for Sihanoukville and in the ransom drama that followed they were executed as the army closed in. [Source: Lonely Planet]

The Khmer Rouge reportedly has offered a bounty of $8,000 for every foreigner captured or killed. In 1994, six tourists were killed. It was said the Khmer Rouge wanted foreigners out of the country in the hope that without the investment and tourist dollars the Cambodian government will collapse.

The Khmer Rouge was blamed for the murder of Britons and an Australian 1994 after their car was seized in the southern countryside. Three other tourist were kidnaped but later released. An American medical volunteer was kidnaped by the Khmer Rouge but released more than a month later. Two Belgian tourist disappeared in Khmer Rouge-held territory.

In January 1994, University of Texas professor Susan Hadden was shot to death along with her Cambodian guide when their tour van was stopped at a road block about 15 miles away from Angkor Wat. The van was on it way to the remote temple of Banteay Srei. Hadden’s husband was injured in the altercation. The government initially attributed the deaths to the Khmer Rouge, but most diplomats believe they were actually killed by bandits.

Backpackers Killed by the Khmer Rouge in 1994

On July 26, 1994, Khmer Rouge guerrillas ambushed the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville train with mines in southern Cambodian countryside, near the of Kampot, where the railway winds along the sea at the edge of the Elephant mountains. The guerillas gunned down 11 Cambodian and three Vietnamese passengers and abducted scores of people, including three young Western backpackers—David Wilson of Australia, Mark Slater of Britain and Jean-Michel Braquet of France, all tourists in their late 20s

The three backpackers were held for ransom for two months while the government attempted to negotiate their release. The hostage-takers demanded $150,000. Ultimately the negotiations amounted to nothing and the backpackers were killed by blows to their heads the orders of Gen. Sam Bith, a Khmer Rouge leader. Their bodies were found in October 1994 in a shallow grave after the government raided a Khmer Rouge camp in the Vine Mountains 150 mile south of Phnom Penh. In 1994, Sam Bith defected to the government and was made a general in the Cambodian army.

The murders were reportedly carried out by Nuon Paet, who served in the Khmer Rouge under Sam Bith. In 1998, Nuon Paet was captured when he was lured to the Phnom Penh with the promise of a lucrative business deal. "Police played trick to bring the tiger from his lair," Hun Sen boasted. The move was seen an effort by Hun Sen to earn legitimacy in the eyes of western nations.

Khmer Rouge Kills a British De-Miner

Time magazine reported: “In March, 1996, Khmer Rouge soldiers surrounded British de-miner Christopher Howes and two dozen Cambodian de-miners in the village of Preah Ko near the Angkor temples. The heavily armed rebels forced their captives into vehicles and drove them several kilometers to a spot where a village road ended and rebel-controlled territory began. [Source: Time magazine, October 14, 2008 /\/]

“It was at this point that the Khmer Rouge guerrillas offered Howes the chance of freedom, instructing him to leave and return with a ransom for the release of his colleagues. A former member of the Royal Engineers and veteran of the war in the Falklands, Howes refused to leave his Cambodian team behind, possibly believing they stood a better chance of survival if he continued to negotiate for their release. /\/\

“Instead, the rebels released everyone except for Howes and Houn. Both men were killed a few days later on the orders of the ruthless Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok. It took two years for British detectives to positively confirm that Howes had been executed and his body cremated on a makeshift pyre of wood and gasoline. /\/\

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Documentation Center of Cambodia,, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism of Cambodia, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated May 2014

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