“American Journalist praised by Khmer Rouge for ‘support’ ”
(Author's note: This was from a KR radio broadcast the day after my interviewing Pol Pot and 4 days before publication of that first inteview in two decades in the Far Eastern Economic Review. Not only did it piss me off, it underscored their cluelessness on any remotelessly effective PR strategy)
The Associated Press
October 20, 1997
Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP)-The Khmer Rouge yesterday praised an American journalist Saturday who in June was the first outsider to see the group’s notorious leader Pol Pot in 18 years, and said he is back in guerrilla territory interviewing them again.
In a radio broadcast, the radical Marxist guerrillas said their leader Khieu Samphan met with Nate Thayer, a journalist with the Far eastern Economic Review on October 15.
A few of Thayer’s colleagues also were present at the Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng, 190 miles Northwest of Phnom Penh, the announcer said.
Thayer captured international attention in June when he witnessed a show trial of Pol Pot by the guerrillas he had led for three decades.
Doubts persist, however, as to whether the Khmer Rouge has truly repudiated Pol Pot, or whether Pol Pot staged the trial himself as a propaganda ploy.
“Khieu Samphan thanked Nate Thayer and the international neutral press for taking note of the truth about the struggle of the Cambodian nation and people to reach real real national reconciliation, peace, and democracy,” Saturday’s radio broadcast said.
"The Cambodian nation and people strongly need the support and assistance from the international community in order to realize this very sacred objective."
The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia 1975-79, transforming the country into a vast labor camp, and killed as many as 2 million of the country’s 7 million people through starvation, exhaustion, and execution.
The Khmer Rouge waged a guerrilla war in the countryside after they were ousted by a Vietnamese invasion. The movement began to crumble last year, however, as thousands of war-weary guerrillas began defecting to the government.
Khieu Samphan remains holed up near Anlong Veng with the group’s last hard-liners, who in an attempt to make themselves more palatable to the international community, said they cut their ties with Pol Pot.
In the trial witnessed by Thayer and cameraman David Mckaige, Pol Pot was denounced by his comrades as a murderous traitor and sentenced to life imprisonment.