Tue, May 03, 2016 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Confronting darkness in Khmer Rouge stronghold

AFP, BNLSNG VJNG, Cambodia

He died in 2006 without ever seeing justice.

Ta Mok rose to No. 3 in the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. However, he eventually turned on Pol Pot as the remnants of the movement imploded and turned on each other.

Pol Pot was arrested and tried by Ta Mok’s faction in 1997.

Ta Mok remains celebrated in the town, primarily for irrigation projects and doling out money and favors.

“I would like to stress that living under Ta Mok, both civilians and troops loved him,” Tho Lon said.

Sieng Sok Heng, chief of Anlong Veng’s tourism office — a wooden shack down a dusty road — agreed.

“A lot of the people here were under Ta Mok,” he said, adding that they instead “hate the regime and its leaders.”

Sieng Sok Heng hopes more tourists will seek out the town. About 2,000 locals and 30 international tourists visit each month.

Many seek out Pol Pot’s grave.

The Khmer Rouge leader died in yet to be fully explained circumstances shortly after his trial by Ta Mok’s henchman.

He was swiftly cremated on a bed of car tires on a hillside overlooking the town, a stone’s throw from the Thai border.

His grave lies in the shadow of a large, newly constructed casino filled with Thai and Chinese tourists, the only clue to its existence a rusty blue sign.

For Chhoeun Chhay Lin, 18, the grave stood as a warning.

“I feel a little bit scared of him as a leader, whether he’s dead or alive, he still has some power over people,” she said.

“But students should know about history. We must learn never to follow the direction of that dark regime again,” she said.

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