Rage, tears greet Khmer Rouge
By Nate Thayer
Monday, November 18,1991
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Sophan Nary broke down in tears Sunday when told the Khmer Rouge leaders who killed her family had returned and were staying next door to her noodle shop. "The government can give them permission to walk in the streets, but the people won't. We will kill them," said Nary, 26, whose shop is next to the heavily guarded villa housing the Khmer Rouge entourage.
Sixteen years after triumphantly entering Phnom Penh to begin a 3 ½ year reign that killed hundreds of thousands, the Khmer Rouge returned Sunday to Cambodia. They are part of a national reconciliation council set up by a UN brokered peace plan to usher in 1993 elections. Few Phnom Penh residents knew of the arrival of the 10-member Khmer Rouge delegation, led by Son Sen, the former chief of its secret police.
But crowds quickly gathered outside the government guest house where they are staying, exchanging tears and" angry stories of what the bloody regime had done to them. Several threatened to kill the Khmer Rouge if they emerged from the walled compound. Shortly after the Khmer Rouge arrived, Premier Hun Sen told a news conference that state radio had announced the return, but that national television would not broadcast pictures of
the delegation for security reasons. "If Son Sen goes out and the people recognize him, they might try to harm him," said Hun Sen. He added that he would not deal with the Khmer Rouge outside actual council sessions, saying he might be "stoned by people" if he did.
Khmer Rouge leaders
The two Khmer Rouge leaders who returned
Sunday to Cambodia are:
SON SEN — As chief of the secret police, Son Sen was reportedly responsible for the forced evacuation of cities, Internal purges and executions that ravaged entire classes of Cambodian society in the mid-1970s.
KHIEU SAMPHAN — Served as head of state, and became— by process of brutal elimination — the right-hand man of leader Pol Pot. His doctoral thesis was the blueprint for a deadly agrarian revolution.
While maintaining some popular support in this largely rural rice-growing nation, the Khmer Rouge is despised in the cities, whose populations it targeted as class enemies in its pursuit of a radical agrarian Utopia. Government officials have expressed concern over the safety of the delegates and the government has guaranteed their security — although they will only allow them three bodyguards armed with pistols outside the compound. Under the peace accord signed last month, the Hun Sen government, the Khmer Rouge and two non-communist guerrilla groups will work as the Supreme National Council.
Yet many fear that the Khmer Rouge, which fought the Hun Sen government since its own ouster in 1978 by a Vietnamese invasion, will try again to take over. Apparently to prevent such a scenario, Hun Sen's government has been publicly cozy with Prince Norodom Sihanouk, a still-beloved former Cambodian leader who heads the reconciliation council. Nearly everybody in Phnom Penh says they remain afraid of the Khmer Rouge. "Don't believe anything the Khmer Rouge say. They are no better than dogs," said a somber Pen Chuut, who was one of several hundred people who gathered around the guest house. Down the street is a former Khmer Rouge torture center that has been preserved as a testament to its brutality. Adorning its walls are 20,000 photographs of those tortured and executed by the 1975-1978 regime.
'If (Khmer Rouge leader) Son Sen goes out and the people recognize him, they might try to harm him.'
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