Archive | September, 2012

Pol Pot Meets Kim Il Sung

12 Sep

Pol Pot Meets Kim Il Sung

In October 1977, Pol Pot and his delegation of brother-in-law Ieng Sary, and sister-in-law Ieng Tirith, arrived in Pyongyang where they were given the highest level of enthusiastic welcome, meriting no less than 26 separate stories in official North Korean media, non stop radio and TV coverage, innumerable photographs above the fold on the party organs, and at least 6 separate meeting with the Great leader Kim Il Sung, who met Pol Pot at the airport, bringing along a crowd of hundreds of thousands cheering and waving flowers. who lined the road to Pyongyang.


Upon his arrival, “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song firmly shook hands with Comrade Pol Pot at Pyongyang Airport” where “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song posed for a commemorative photo with the party and government delegation of Democratic Cambodia headed by Comrade Pol Pot”

Then “Comrade Pol Pot inspected an honor guard of the three services of the Korean People’s Army” was feted by “College coeds (who) courteously presented fragrant bunches of flowers to the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot.”

The happy couple then continued on where the “chairman of the Pyongyang Administrative Committee, together with heroes of the republic and model workers, presented a statue of an anti-imperialist fighter to Comrade Pol Pot On 4 Oct 77″ after which “Singing and dancing, circular ranks of boy and girl students and artists enthusiastically welcomed the goodwill envoy of the Cambodian people with Kim Il-song in attendance at Kim Il-song square.”

Then apparently they arrived at their guesthouse and slept.

The next two days, October 5 and October 6,  they got down to business and held several long working meetings where “Talks were held between the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot” followed by together on the evening of  5 October going out on a date and taking in a show where “Comrade Pol Pot, together with the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song, mounted the stage at Mansudae Theater and presented the performers with a basket of flowers to congratulate them on their successful performance, posing for a commemorative photo with them” and they had an early night to rest up for another long day of work.

Pol Pot at Rest After a Long Life’s Work

On October 6, 1977, “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song paid a return courtesy call on Comrade Pol Pot” and later “Talks were held between the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot.”

The next day, October 7, 1977, Pol Pot was accorded the royal treatment welcomed by hundreds of thousands at the national stadium where “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot raised high their tightly clasped hands in acknowledgement of the crowd’s enthusiastic welcome at Moranbong Stadium ” where the Khmer Rouge delegation were honored by seating on “The presidential platform of the Pyongyang mass rally welcoming, with the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song in attendance, the party and government delegation of Democratic Cambodia headed by Comrade Pol Pot.”

The gathering was trumpeted by North Korean media who displayed  photos of “Kim Il-song delivering a speech at the 7 October mass rally welcoming Pol Pot” and then the Great leader effectively popped the Big Question, cementing their relationship, when “The Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-song conferred the title of Hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Comrade Pol Pot.”

Instead of throwing rice, the lovely nuptial ceremony ended whens  “Lovely juvenile corps members courteously presented the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot with fragrant bunches of flowers .”

And On T Seventh Day, They Rested.

The Kim’s After a hard Life’s Work

The next morning, October 8 1977, “The Great leader Comrade Kim Il-song and Comrade Pol Pot signed the joint communique between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Democratic Cambodia” and “In congratulation of the 32nd anniversary of the founding of the Korean Workers Party, Comrade Pol Pot presented the great leader Comrade Kim Il-song with a basket of flowers and prayed for the long life of the great leader.”

Then, the honeymoon completed and the relationship consummated, “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song cordially bade farewell to Comrade Pol Pot upon his departure from Pyongyang after successful completion of his visit to our nation” and, a separate story detailed “The great leader Comrade Kim Il-song firmly shook hands with Comrade Pol Pot on his departure from Pyongyang.”

The two leaders then returned to their day jobs of exterminating the human spirit from their people.

In an apparent effort to cheer himself up after his good pal, Comrade Pol Pot left him, the very next story on North Korean official media announced “The Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-song toured the newly built amusement park at the Taesongsan Recreation Center in Pyongyang.”


What Happened to the Khmer Rouge? They are Back in Power. Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil: Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

10 Sep

What Happened to the KR? They are Back in Power. Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

(Select excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge” By Nate Thayer. Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights reserved. No publication in whole or part permitted without express written permission from the author)

By Nate Thayer

The dirty little secret that all Cambodians know is Pol Pot fit too comfortably within mainstream Cambodian political culture.

The 1996 “defections” or “surrender” of Ieng Sary and thousands of Khmer Rouge troops in Pailin was actually, more accurately, the beginning of the final reintegration of the Khmer Rouge to the legitimacy of mainstream political power in  Cambodian society.

It also sent shockwaves through Pol Pot’s remaining Khmer Rouge loyalists in the north, and rocked the fragile coalition government in Phnom Penh.

The “surrender” of thousands of armed Khmer Rouge at war with the central government did not, as one might expect, strengthen the stability of the country. Rather, it capsized the precarious political balance of Cambodia itself.

It forced to the surface the latent, grave tensions within the coalition government of Hun Sen’s Cambodia People’s Party and Ranariddh’s Funcinpec party percolating under the veneer of their government partnership.

And it sparked the irreversible escalation towards another round of intra-Cambodian warfare, jumpstarting the inevitable process of the collapse of the government itself.

While Cambodia’s mainstream political factions compete in their anti-Khmer Rouge rhetoric, the truth is far more complicated.

The harsh truth is, that in the heart of most every Cambodian political leader beats a Khmer Rouge.

Extreme camping: Rumbles in the Cambodian Jungles

Extreme camping: Rumbles in the Cambodian Jungles

I never met a Cambodian leader who had any particular objection to mass murder. It depended entirely on the merits of the victim.  Mainstream Cambodian political figures rarely take issue with crimes against humanity, but rather object only when they are the targets.

It is instructive to remember that in the current internationally recognized and funded government in Phnom Penh today, the Prime Minister, the foreign minister, the finance minister, the defence minister, the interior minister, and thousands of officers in the army and police were Khmer Rouge officials under Pol Pot.

The vast majority of the provincial, district, sub district and village political administration in power today, were Khmer Rouge cadre carrying out Pol Pot’s directives when he ran the country. The vast majority didn’t leave the Khmer Rouge because they objected to Pol Pot’s policies, but either fled only when they became the next targets on the list or remained Khmer Rouge officials until the Vietnamese army overthrew the senior leadership of the Khmer Rouge, then seamlessly continuing without interruption their official duties under new central government leadership.

By 1996, for both Funcinpec and the CPP, their immediate priority was not the destruction of the Khmer Rouge, but the destruction of each other.

In order to achieve this, they each entered into a frenzied competition to embrace the Khmer Rouge as military allies.

The internal schism within Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge that resulted in his powerful brother in law and former foreign minister, Ieng Sary, heading a mutiny breakaway faction of thousands of Khmer Rouge cadre, civilians and troops in August 1996, sparked a concerted, frenzied competition between the two Prime Ministers to woo intact the armed strength of the Khmer Rouge and secure their loyalty to—not to the government—but to their separate political parties.

And the reason for this was nothing less than a strategic plan by each political party to procure an alliance with a strong-not weakened-Khmer Rouge.

Whichever party successfully romanced the Ieng Sary faction in Pailin in the west and the Pol Potist’s in the north intended to use their new found strength to launch a coup d’état against their government partners.

So the push to force the “surrender” of the Ieng Sary faction of the Khmer Rouge in late 1996 was not a harbinger of peace at all. It was, in fact, an irreversible and calculated preparation for war.

It is a mistaken and simplistic premise to assume that any of Cambodia’s mainstream political factions were “anti-Khmer Rouge.”

They indeed were frightened, almost obsessed, that the Khmer Rouge would declare allegiance to their political opposition. Everyone recognized that in the perverted priorities of the organization of Cambodian political power, the Khmer Rouge was an impressive and useful military and political organization.

The government rhetoric against the Khmer Rouge was as cynical and insincere as it was strident. It was designed primarily for the gullible ears of their foreign benefactors on whose largesse they depended to pay the bills to run the country.

In late 1996, both Cambodian ruling political parties who shared power after the 1993 UN organized fair elections, while boasting to the United States and others that they were the superior architects of the demise of the Khmer Rouge, simultaneously intensified secret negotiations with both the Ieng Sary Pailin-based Khmer Rouge and with Pol Pot’s forces holed up in the north.  The objective of both CPP and Funcinpec was to secure the Khmer Rouge military and political fidelity as they prepared to resume civil war to destroy the other political party in their coalition government.

Dispatching their most senior military officers and party loyalists to the jungle, Both Hun Sen and Rannaridh offered sweet deals of high ranking political positions in the government, military ranks in the army, and control over lucrative economic portfolios to the top Khmer Rouge leaders and their powerful military commanders spread  throughout the Cambodian jungles  in exchange, not for defecting to the government, but rather pledging loyalty to one or the other government political factions as they quickened the speed of their plan to launch a coup against each other.

And from his jungle redoubt, Pol Pot was playing the same game.

Like a mistress toying with two jealous suitors, Pol Pot schemed how to best manipulate the government factions to secure his maximum foothold in power.

This was Cambodia, and as had been true for 800 years before 1996, the strategy of all factions were the same—seek maximum power with short term tactical allies to destroy whomever they deemed to be the most immediate threat.

These new tactical alliances with other enemies, the thinking went, could then be, when appropriately vulnerable, later targeted and dispatched with similar eruptions of horrific and violent tactics.

No Cambodian leader had a strategic vision that analyzed the consequences of such an approach.

Peace, political stability, economic development, strengthening institutions of government and society, or coherent foreign and domestic policies were too far-sighted theories. And make no mistake that indeed they were never other than theories. It had been centuries since Cambodia had enjoyed any such organization of internal power.

Coalition politics has never been an end game for any Cambodian seeking political power.

Power sharing is a distasteful, insincere, and temporary step, part of endless military and political maneuvering serving the only shared strategy: to hold sole and absolute power.

Absolute power is demanded not just by a political party, but invariably by leaders within each party. That is why Cambodia’s political parties are always dividing like amoebas. Ambitious leaders, like their God-King predecessors, pursue nothing less than personal and complete hegemony over the country. Until that is achieved, all competition or disagreement, or even policy differences, must be, when the time is appropriate, crushed.

This truth is fundamental to understanding why Cambodia is on a seemingly endless roller coaster of internal upheaval.

The concept of loyal opposition or coalition politics has no successful precedent in Cambodian history. The primary ramification of this paradigmatic tool of ascension to political power is that Cambodia has remained in a constant state of warfare for generations.

The norm of civil war ebbs occasionally to an uneasy temporary political alliance or subjugation between squabbling and scheming enemies, often imposed with force by impatient and frustrated foreign powers.

These were the circumstances in late 1996 and 1997 that preceded the reintegration of the Khmer Rouge back into national society and the violent collapse of the UN elected government.

The Cambodian government’s efforts to romance the Khmer Rouge, intensifying in late 1996, would be central to the series of crisis that would rock the country in coming months.

It would ultimately culminate with a bloody power struggle among the top Khmer Rouge leadership in June 1997 which ousted Pol Pot from power and, days later, a bloody power struggle within the Phnom Penh government which ousted Ranarriddh and his Funcinpec from power. The two events were, of course, parcel to each other.

This turmoil created by the Ieng Sary led Khmer Rouge defections in Pailin in 1996 collapsed the perennially precarious stability of the government and plunged Cambodia back into civil war in July 1997.

Hun Sen quickly dominated the gruesome orgy of torture and violence that erupted to emerge victorious and seizing control in the only lasting path to secure power in Cambodia with historical precedence—the systematic crushing of ones enemies, which in Cambodia, include anyone who doesn’t agree to abject supplication to a single leader.

Once again, as had happened so many times in Cambodian history, after Cambodians were left to control their own destiny alone—this time with the 1993 withdrawal of United Nations peacekeeping forces—the  country quickly spiraled downward to its sure fate, eventually imploding in an orgy of chaos and violence until one man was left standing.

This time Hun Sen—as Pol Pot, Lon Nol, and Sihanouk before him—lorded over his ‘victory”: a political landscape littered with fresh corpses and the surviving opposition humiliated and beaten into submission.

In his defense, Hun Sen had simply won the game fair and square by the rules his opponents were all willing participants. But of course it was not a victory, because such an organization of power is, in the end, untenable.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the events of 1997 showed once again, that despite Pol Pot being ousted from the seat of government in 1979 after a short but shocking tenure in power, twenty years later he continued to dictate political developments in contemporary Cambodia.

This fact is surely not a reflection of the attributes of the Khmer Rouge, but rather of the extraordinary weaknesses of their opposition.

Even after committing crimes against humanity as a central government policy and unspeakable suffering on a horrific scale, the political options to the Khmer Rouge were so unimpressive that Pol Pot’s political movement remained a viable alternative with sufficient popular sympathy to still be a force to be reckoned with decades later.

In a properly organized country, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge would have utterly collapsed under the weight of its own record immediately after the three years in power in which their policies left millions dead and those who, in many ways, were unlucky enough to survive deeply psychically  traumatized.

The tenacity of the Khmer Rouge to remain a force with the mainstream legitimacy to be the dominant political kingmaker two decades after their orgy of repression and brutality brought the entire country to its knees is nothing other than a wholesale indictment of the failures of the entire Cambodian political culture.

The remarkable longevity of the political power wielded by Pol Pot, which actually saw a surge in popular support after they inflicted genocide while in power, provides an essential, if very dark, prism necessary to view and understand the sad and distasteful realities of the Cambodian political culture that preceded and succeeded the Khmer Rouge.

(Select excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge” By Nate Thayer. Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights reserved. No publication in whole or part without express written permission from the author)

‘We are the World!’ Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

10 Sep

‘We are the World!’ Excerpts from my unpublished book “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”

By Nate Thayer

After threatening to assassinate American civilians, the Khmer Rouge leader continued “Why don’t we join hands in national reconciliation? Join together! We are with you, the West!” he said, growing increasingly animated, half breaking into song. “‘We are the World!’ Who is that singer? Johnny Jackson? Like he says, ‘We are the world!’ Let’s join together!”

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.” No republication in whole or part without express written permission from the author.)

By Nate Thayer

A non-descript Khmer Rouge operative, dressed in civilian clothes was standing in the hallway outside my seedy hotel room in the still dark hours before dawn in The Thai border town of Surin.

He waved me out urgently, nervously checking to see that the hallways were clear and I accompanied him at a pace too fast to be inconspicuous through the hotel lobby outside to a beat up pickup truck with a middle age Thai man with a crew cut in the driver’s seat who refused to identify himself. The truck had Thai civilian license plates.

Tuoch, the Khmer Rouge agent, refused to tell me where we were going or with whom I was scheduled to meet.

“You will see,” he said solemnly.

He probably didn’t even know himself.

He would not have had to be instructed to be vague. His mission was only to retrieve me from the hotel and deliver me safely to Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia without drawing the attention of anybody. In late July 1996, now more than ever, the Khmer Rouge believed that enemies were everywhere and they were right.

Life for the Khmer Rouge by mid 1996 was a far cry from the previous years, where hundreds of millions of dollars of Chinese military hardware was trucked across these borders, coordinated by Thai military intelligence units, and with the political backing of the United States, and more than 120 member countries of the United Nations.

Khmer Rouge leaders had compounds in the relative luxury of Thai provincial capitals and travelled in chauffeured cars to Bangkok.

Now they rarely got permission from the Thais to leave their isolated jungle hideouts.

The pickup truck was driven by a very nervous Thai civilian with a mobile phone that would ring periodically and he would grunt a few responses and hang up.

He insisted he was not a serving military officer and I believed him. He was nervous, grim-faced, eyes darting and reluctant to utter a word, driving way to fast, and clearly uncomfortable.

Thai spooks were much more relaxed.

They had carte blanche to travel these border regions still under Thai martial law since it was infested by armed guerrillas of the Communist Party of Thailand only a few years prior, and Thai military intelligence could pull rank with the flash of an ID card, getting a no-questions asked salute, and look of fear at any military checkpoint. I had seen it many times.

This fellow I was with had no permission to transport a foreigner, little less an American journalist, through the Thai frontier, and certainly not to smuggle him across national  borders into a zone controlled by an armed Cambodian rebel faction at war with the central government in Phnom Penh of which Thailand had formal diplomatic relations.

The Thai government was constantly proclaiming they had no contact with the Khmer Rouge, and now, except for the legitimate national security functions of gathering intelligence, monitoring Khmer Rouge activities, and keeping their options open, they were largely complying.

He drove many miles out of the way through a network of back roads, bordered by endless rice paddies, specifically to avoid Thai military checkpoints.

I wrote down every turn, drawing a map in my notebook, in case I needed to find my way back—or was ever inclined to sneak back this way again.

After a couple hours, the pickup turned down a dirt path into a small non-descript Thai village and pulled over at a thatched roof noodle and cigarette stall.

The tinted one-way windows of the pickup shielded me from the solemn but prying eyes of the half dozen peasant farmers milling about. This was a village that knew well to look the other way when strangers came through.

After chatting with the vendor for a minute, the driver hopped back in and we drove deeper into rice fields down rutted dirt tracks used only by water buffalo and farm equipment.

We pulled over under a lone majestic banyan tree amongst the rice paddies and waited. I was told to stay hidden in the truck. I was given a baseball hat with a Kiss rock-and-roll band logo of an extended tongue for disguise, sunglasses, and told to wrap a checkered traditional Cambodian scarf around my face.

Churning up dust in its wake, snaking through the rice paddies, a battered pick-up truck with no license plate and tinted windows approached from the east out of the jungle shrouded mountain ridge, which marked the natural Cambodian border a couple kilometers in the distance. It pulled next to us and a uniformed Khmer Rouge soldier got out, greeting my companions.

With little small talk, I was promptly ordered into the cramped, small rear bench seat behind the driver, my 6-2 inch frame stuffed awkwardly like a sardine, my knees bent up to my chin. The Khmer Rouge soldier was at the helm, his face serious, a Chinese AK-47 propped by the gearshift. Young Tuoch, who had knocked on my hotel door that morning, was in the passenger seat. We sped toward the tree line.

The rice fields devolved into now unproductive, fallow fields. This was always a mark of danger. As we neared the actual ill-defined border, fields were abandoned because of recent fighting. Landmines were everywhere. These were always eerie, peculiar scenes. Stark in their silence, abandoned rice fields are the sign that civilians have fled, giving up their most precious holdings—literally the source of the food on their table. Things have to be pretty bad for rice fields to be abandoned.

Periodically, artillery would fall, or clashes would break out, villagers killed or maimed, and they would retreat from their homes, waiting for the war that each side had nothing to offer them, to end.

Hand painted blood-red skull and crossbones signs nailed to trees were everywhere, a crude warning to local peasants of landmines or booby traps. These increased proportionately to the importance of the area—either as a strategic road or military base or village of families of Khmer Rouge soldiers.

We drove for miles down dirt tracks through these abandoned, neglected fields, empty and silent, toward the tree line mountain escarpment on the horizon. Trees always marked the border between Thailand and Cambodia.

In these parts of the Thai-Cambodia frontier if there were trees, there were guerrilla soldiers hiding in them.

We had one more obstacle ahead, I was told—an isolated Thai military checkpoint. The Khmer Rouge driver checked that I was sufficiently scrunched up in the back, hat and sunglasses on, traditional Cambodian scarf wrapped around my head, with only my eyes exposed.

 “Tell them you are visiting your family, if anyone asks,” he instructed, rather preposterously.

The checkpoint consisted of a single raw cut log suspended parallel across and above the road, weighted on one end by concrete and tied by rope on a post on the opposite side of the dirt track. A bamboo hut was beside it. Next to it, in the mid morning sun, a single Thai soldier lay asleep in his hammock, his M-16 assault rifle propped against a tree.

He didn’t even rise as Tuoch got out of the car to lift the barricade. We had now entered Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia. The Thai never suspected an American was being smuggled through. The explosions of incoming artillery followed the rumbling of their firing further down the mountain escarpment ahead.

The guerrilla stronghold on a high ridge of northern Cambodia’s Dongruk Mountain offered stunning vistas of tropical jungles and besieged villages encircled by bunkers and land mines.

Grim faced Khmer Rouge soldiers, many of them missing limbs and walking on crude hand carved wooden crutches, eyed me suspiciously, trying not to be obvious in the curiosity at the first westerner they had ever seen.

One hut housed sophisticated radio equipment, its roof criss-crossed with antennas.

Amputees in pea green Chinese style PLA uniforms, the elderly, and the women and children families of soldiers down the mountain in frontline trenches battling government soldiers, walked the dusty single road through the guerrilla base or squatted smoking cigarettes and boiling rice over open fires around the village.

The rhythmic thud of incoming government artillery elicits no reaction from Khmer Rouge “Minister of Finance and Economy” Mak Ben, as he emerged from a bamboo hut, wearing rimless spectacles and a grey Mao suit buttoned at the collar around his neck.

A blackboard on a thatched wall behind him shouted Khmer Rouge slogans in the Sanskrit based Cambodian script, proclaiming “Hate the Communist Vietnamese Aggressor!” and “Believe Deeply in Guerrilla Warfare!”

He walked over to greet me, extending his hand and a smarmy, insincere smile. “Welcome to the liberated zones!”

I, of course, had been given no idea with whom I was going to meet, whether we would continue deeper into the jungle, or whether I would be offered useful new information. I patiently exchanged pleasantries while fresh mangoes, papaya, and rambuttan fruit was served.

Mak Ben wasted no time launching into the lecture he was instructed to give me, denouncing the “Vietnamese puppets and their despicable alliance” who were darkly plotting to “swallow” Cambodia and eliminate the Khmer Rouge.

He saved special vitriol for the Americans. Much of the not very thinly veiled threats were directed at ears many thousands of miles away to official Washington.

“If you, the United States, continue to help the Vietnamese and Hun Sen fight us, we will use our right to self-defence. I must tell you that if you continue to aid the Vietnamese and their puppets, we cannot guarantee the safety of Americans in Cambodia,’ he smirked at me, betraying no friendliness. “One thing I should stress is we will never agree to surrender. Never!”

“We are very concerned, very interested in (U.S. National Security Advisor) Anthony Lakes meeting with (Thai) Prime Minister Banharn Silp-archa,” he continued.

A French trained engineer and former Khmer Rouge diplomat, Mak Ben held the meaningless title of Minister of Economic and Finance in the Khmer Rouge so-called Provisional Government.

“We want to know exactly what Lake means when he says the U.S. wants ‘democracy, stability, and security’ in Cambodia? Is it security through national reconciliation, without the Khmer Rouge?”

I was beginning to seethe at the realization of what was happening.

I had been summoned from across the planet, on my own dime, to be lectured by a robotic mid-level Khmer Rouge minion because they, in their isolation-fueled paranoia, were reading dark plots into a routine stopover in Bangkok by a U.S. official.

And they wanted me to deliver their pathetic message to my “bosses” in Washington.

Anthony Lake’s comments meant nothing. They were the routine rhetoric of long stated U.S. policy, made on a courtesy stopover in Thailand on his return from Beijing to Washington, which was so short he never left the Bangkok airport.

But Mak Ben hammered on, visions of dark plots having been conjured up in these isolated jungles, attaching ridiculous significance to Lakes visit.

That was why I had just flown across the world, drove to a remote Thai border town, holed up for days in a 1 star hotel hovel, and smuggled across international frontiers illegally; to meet this bonehead spout delusional rhetoric of a wholly out of touch with reality guerrilla band of murderous thugs caught in a time warp of their own making.

They were convinced that Lake’s routine, passing comment was focused on destroying them, and they wanted me to relay to Washington that they would start assassinating American citizens working as humanitarian aid workers in Cambodia if the U.S. didn’t back off.

Mak Ben went on to describe a fanciful geo-political strategy of the U.S. having entered into an alliance with Vietnam—using Cambodia as a theatre—that aimed to undermine Chinese influence in the region.

“After the cold war, Vietnam is too weak to carry out its expansionist strategy. But Vietnam will never abandon its strategy—which is deeply rooted among the old and young. Now 4 to 5 million Vietnamese nationals are in Cambodia. Laos is finished. Seventeen northeastern provinces in Thailand will encompass the Vietnamese Indochina Federation. The Vietnamese are breeding like rats. Vietnam is at our door. We cannot afford to be alone. We are with you! Who else if not the U.S., the West?”

He went on to contend that the Khmer Rouge enjoyed wide support in Asian capitals. “Diplomatically, ASEAN, China and Thailand are compelled to recognize the Phnom Penh regime. But morally we enjoy the support of the region,” he said preposterously.

Mak Ben went on to downplay the influence of Pol Pot and the rest of the senior leadership, who had long officially retired but in fact remained in complete control.

“Cambodia of the past belongs in the past. Let’s not talk about history. Pol Pot and all the Democratic Kampuchea leaders are very old. You can imagine how they are. They have lived 30 years in the forest without medical care.”

He continued to further piss me off.

“I would like to tell you that Pol Pot and the other old political leaders are not in the political game anymore. They are finished. I am here to speak on behalf of my colleagues. I tell you that we, our new group, abide and continue to abide by liberal democracy, to be with the western world—the U.S.! I dare to tell you we are with the U.S., the free world! You can believe it or not. I have to stress to tell you that this is our political position and we will never change. For the sake of our country, we cannot go communist, to survive as a nation.”

I had known Mak Ben for many years and always been particularly unimpressed with him. He oozed insincerity. And he had the self conscious, arrogant swagger of a nervous, gangly teenager who you wanted to feel sorry for except he was mouthing such dangerous dribble.

His eyes darted avoiding mine from behind his dark glasses.

“You have abandoned your children!” he said wagging his finger at me, referring to the American government. “Look at Funcinpec, isn’t it your child? And Sam Rainsy, he is a child of the west. They are all your children. You have given birth to them. You have given them food, milk! You have sent them to school. Are you going to abandon your dying children?” he said, failing miserably at trying to look intimidating.

I remembered Mak Ben well from 1991 in Phnom Penh. He arrived with the delegation of Khieu Samphan in late November after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on the Khmer Rouge first return to the capital since they fled the Vietnamese invasion in 1979, leaving behind more than a million corpses under the feet of the broken souls of those who survived.

They were not warmly welcomed back.

Immediately upon arrival to their newly rented headquarters in downtown Phnom Penh, convoying in from the airport with armed United Nations protection, the Khmer Rouge delegation were besieged by a government sanctioned mob that attacked them, invaded their villa, beat them up, looted the contents, and burned it to the ground.

I invaded the house with the mob. After

Mak Ben and the others, trapped, beaten and terrified, fled for his life through the crowd, back to the jungle.

But while the mob was attacking Mak Ben and the other leaders, beating them bloody, I was nearby, looting their unopened luggage, rifling through them looking for documents.

A very happy fellow next to me opened a suitcase with $200,000 American dollars in it.

Among many gems, I found Mak Ben’s Yugoslavian passport and a letter from his daughter.

She was a young girl, a refugee herself from the Khmer Rouge killing fields, who found her way from the UN refugee camps in Thailand to Australia as a very young child. She hadn’t seen her daddy in years. It was a heart wrenching letter that begged her father to address rumours that he was a Pol Potist.

“They say you are a murderer, daddy,: she wrote.

After fleeing the Phnom Penh mob back to the jungle, other Khmer Rouge made fun of Mak Ban, saying he was terrified of returning to Phnom Penh and being killed. He wanted to stay in the jungle, afraid to face the Cambodian people.

Every time I saw him, I saw a bully and a coward.

After lecturing me on the U.S. abandoning their “children”, and threatening to murder American citizens unless Washington knuckled under to these nearly irrelevant, delusional, self-important thugs sleeping in the forest, he smiled at me and tried to lighten things up.

“America is a liberal democracy. We are nationalists. Democrats, too! So why don’t we join hands in national reconciliation. Join together! We are with you, the West!” he said growing increasingly animated, half breaking into song. “We are the World! Who is that singer? Johnny Jackson? Like he says, ‘We are the world!’ let’s join together!”

Mak Ben blithely ignored the fact that the U.S. government really could care less what happened in Cambodia, and it’s only stated policy towards the Khmer Rouge, in 1996, was funding projects to gather evidence to bring him and his comrades to an international court to face charges for crimes against humanity.

Retreating from his absurd and comically ineffective attempt at hipness, he again tried to look menacing.

“It is up to you. Our cards are on the table. We can fight for 100 years. We can eat grass if we have to. We have no other choice. We cannot accept that our nation, the great 2000-year-old nation of Angkor, disappears. As patriots, we will use our right to self-defence. It is better to die in the jungle.”

I was very angry by this time.

It was clear to me that I had been summoned around the world to be lectured and to be a courier to deliver half empty threats to Washington. I was not to see anyone important and I was not to learn much useful.

I asked, of course, to meet Pol Pot and others and to stay in the jungle and travel to guerrilla bases.

“The leaders are all busy,” he said dismissively.

He told me that I would have to leave that afternoon, before dark.

“It is not safe here.”

Down the mountain I could see smoke rising after the ground shook from each burst of mortars and artillery.

At lunch, a village elder looked morose.

“We moved here last year to get away from government attacks,” he said. “For the people here it is a very hard.”

He eyed Mak Ben to make sure he wasn’t saying something wrong.

“We used to have hope that the Paris Agreements would bring peace. We want national reconciliation. In our hearts we want national reconciliation and peace,” he said quietly. “Especially peace.”

The village elder, like I, was fed up.

I left shortly afterwards, telling Mak Ben, in a moment of uncontrolled fury and indifference, to pass the message not to invite me back unless they were prepared to let me meet senior leaders.

He was insulted. I didn’t care.

While he betrayed nothing of the matter that July 30, 1996, as we spoke, the jungles just south of here were simmering with a similar attitude, and rebellion within their ranks was about to erupt into violent mutiny that would later that week deliver the biggest blow to Pol Pot and his loyalists since they were ousted from power by the Vietnamese invasion 17 years earlier.

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights Reserved. Excerpts from unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.” No republication in whole or part without express written permission from the author.)

The Night Pol Pot Died-Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

10 Sep

The Night Pol Pot Died: From the Jungles of Northern Cambodia.

Excerpts from my unpublished book manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No publication or transmission in whole or part allowed without express written permission of the author. )

By Nate Thayer

I was alone in a hotel the night Pol Pot died, in the small, remote Thai border town of Surin, abutting the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles of Cambodia.

I had been urgently summoned by the Khmer Rouge a few days earlier in a phone call which betrayed no specifics of why they wanted to see me, only that it was urgent. General Khem Nuon, the Khmer Rouge army-chief-of-staff and top field commander for Ta Mok had said only: “What you have been asking for we have agreed to.”

I took that to mean that I had been granted another interview with Pol Pot, but I was to learn it was even more significant. They had decided, as I had been pressing them for months, to turn Pol Pot over to the international community to face a trial.

I was summoned to discuss how to actually handle the logistics of handing over Pol Pot. It was an attempt to play their last card to garner international support and stem metastasizing mutinies and all out warfare raging in their jungles which threatened to finish their organization for the final time.

I had spent several days along the Thai-Cambodian rebel held border discussing their plight and interviewing their top cadre. Earlier that day I had filed a story with my magazine, the Far Eastern Economic Review, on the Khmer Rouge decision to hand over Pol Pot. The Review went to press at 6:00 pm Hong Kong time on Wednesdays—this one being that day–the 15th of April, 1998.

“We have decided to turn Pol Pot over to the Americans. But we can’t get in touch with the Americans. We discussed it again this morning and Ta Mok agreed. So we want to give him to you,” said the guerrilla commander.

I was, to put it mildly, momentarily flummoxed. What the fuck was I supposed to do with Pol Pot? Put him in the back of the pickup truck and take him to the Far Eastern Economic Review office in Bangkok? It was not part of my job description. I suggested they should promptly get in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross and gave him the appropriate contact details. “That is a very good idea!” Khem Nuon responded. There were other details, but I knew that the decision to turn over one of the century’s most egregious perpetrators of crimes against humanity to face justice was a very good story indeed.

The magazine released the highlights of the story in a press release that night at 5:00 pm Bangkok time—6:00 pm Hong Kong time. It was picked up immediately by the international wire services and broadcast by the VOA at 8:00 pm Thailand time on their Khmer language service, which Pol Pot listened to every evening.

17 minutes after Pol Pot died—at 10:32 pm on 15 April 1998—my mobile phone rang in my hotel room. Reaching past the half-empty bottle of fake Johnny Walker Black whiskey on the bedside table, I grabbed the remote, muted the volume of CNN blaring on the television, and answered the phone.

“My friend, Pol Pot is dead,” said Gen. Khem Nuon, the KR commander and for months my good friend, in an urgent whisper. “He died a few minutes ago.” He was calling on a Chinese military radio phone from the jungles across the Thai border.

While the Khmer Rouge always whispered, they were rarely breathless. Nuon was desperate and looking for guidance.

“What should I do?” he pleaded. “You must tell the Americans and you must come here immediately.”

It was an example the murky terrain of my role as a journalist and liaison with the rebels in their final days.

As I listened to the Khmer Rouge army commander, Monica Lewinsky splashed across the muted screen of CNN International Headline news, the world news dominated with the criminal punishment and removal from power of the US president for his indiscreet blow job with a young intern. Lewinsky would continue to tower over the story of the demise of  pol Pot, a man who had been one of the century’s most notorious despots.

General Nuon called, mainly, because he knew I would want to know. He was both a killer and my friend. Nuon always tried his best to be helpful.

I had spent countless days and nights over the last months with Nuon explaining how the world worked outside the jungles he had called home for thirty years. His appetite for and curiosity for ideas and the new-fangled world was insatiable.

It equaled my thirst for knowledge of his movement, its inner workings and history. He had commanded the troops that overthrew Pol Pot the year before, and therefore risen as the top field commander of all Khmer Rouge troops.

With his formidable language skills and new role as chief field commander of rebel troops, he was for the first time able to clandestinely leave the jungles he called home and travel for covert meetings in Thailand, where he was escorted by a special unit of Thai military intelligence operatives who closely monitored the routines, movements, and intentions of the outlawed guerrilla faction.

Nuon was also receiving medical treatment in Bangkok at a Thai military facility for a cancerous thyroid. He would always come to my house and, over copious amounts of hot tea with lots of sugar, spend hours talking about life and just to be free from the harsh deprivations of the jungle.

He had come to rely on me and me on him as we spent countless days and nights sharing thoughts and information.

“We will be friends forever!” he would often say to me with a broad, gentle grin, squeezing my hand and hugging me.

He was bright, gentle, hard working, kind, and a natural leader of men.

He was also the top armed commander of one of the world’s most brutal political movements.

He personified the contradictions within the Khmer Rouge movement that allowed them to be such a formidable political force despite their atrocious human rights record.

And he represented to me the contradictions in my own mind that I had developed for the Khmer Rouge—on one hand respectable and impressive and on the other hand unspeakably brutal and offensive.

I was very fond of Nuon and him of me, despite the fact, in truth, I had grown to collectively detest everything that Cambodia had become.

There was symbiosis in my relationship with the Khmer Rouge: They needed me and I needed them and neither of us trusted each other.

While competent jungle fighters, these were peasants, mostly rice farmers turned guerrillas, but their ranks were also filled with the best and the brightest of Cambodia who had fled to the jungles as youth 30 years before to join the revolution.

Nuon and most others had no exposure to how the world worked outside the jungle, where most had lived their entire adult lives. They had come to largely rely on me to both interpret it for them and take their message to the outside.

After Nuon called with the news of Pol Pot’s death, I knew I wouldn’t have to tell the Americans that Pol Pot was dead.

Moments after I hung up, an American intelligence officer charged with following Khmer Rouge developments called from Bangkok. He wanted to know if I had heard “rumours” that Pol Pot was dead.

Nuon’s phone was tapped as I assumed mine was and the American spy wasn’t fooling either of us.

It was a game whose rules I had long before learned and understood.

But the American also knew that a monitored phone conversation between a guerrilla commander and a journalist was insufficient to confirm such an historic event. They, as I, needed proof.

To be sure this wasn’t some kind of political trick, someone independent and credible needed to go back to the jungle and provide details and evidence of what had happened.

The American wanted me to bring Pol Pot’s body back if possible, he said, or some forensic material.

“If you can’t do that, maybe you could cut off one of his fingers,” he suggested seriously, in an only fleetingly embarrassed tone. I told him I would do what I could.

He needed to get Washington hard evidence of what had happened in these jungles inaccessible to them, and his crude suggestion didn’t faze me at the time at all. He was a top notch military intelligence officer, very bright, spoke fluent Thai, and had excellent relations with the Thai military.

The Americans had political restraints and could not simply show up at Khmer Rouge field headquarters, but I didn’t.

I requested he make a phone call to the Thai military to encourage them to let me cross their borders at dawn with direct permission from the highest command, into the Khmer Rouge zones. The American promised to put in an urgent good word to facilitate my crossing through the heavily guarded Thai military checkpoints, through which all unauthorized persons were forbidden to pass.

The road to Anlong Veng was a well hidden dirt path set off a remote road that hugged the unpopulated, jungle-clad Thai Cambodian border marked by a steep mountain escarpment. These rutted narrow paths were bordered by a towering jungle canopy and weaved through eerily silent thick tropical forests void of any human presence.

It was a no-man’s land for miles after the last Thai checkpoint and before populated areas of the Khmer Rouge controlled jungle bases in Cambodia.

The areas between frontlines are always the most dangerous, fraught with vulnerability from roving bandits, landmines, and ambush from a wide potential cast of characters.

While the Khmer Rouge wanted me to come, and Gen. Nuon controlled the troops at his jungle checkpoints, crossing out of Thailand into Khmer Rouge territory required another set of permissions.

A few moments after I hung up with the American spook, the assistant of the Thai army commander-in-chief called.

It was close to midnight now. He said I was granted permission personally from the Thai army commander-in-chief, who I had known personally for years since he was a mid level Special Forces commander, to go out of Thailand to find Pol Pot’s body.

The general was highly respected for his professionalism and honesty and previously was in charge of Thailand’s important and complicated efforts during the Cambodian covert war. He then headed army intelligence before rising to overall army commander, one of Thailand’s most powerful positions.

His aide gave me the name and mobile phone number of the commander of a highly secret Thai military unit who I knew only by reputation.

Regiment 16 was based in a remote location along the border and charged with the extremely sensitive task of controlling all access to and liaison with the Khmer Rouge, escorting them on their forbidden trips to Thailand and entering the Khmer Rouge zones with relative free will.

Regiment 16 officially didn’t exist and performed functions Thailand officially denied it didn’t engage in. He said the Colonel was already instructed to meet me at a specific gas station at dawn

Neither the Thais or the Americans wanted to be seen as involved in what surely would be an extremely high profile event that would soon, I knew, dominate world headlines and attract scores of journalists to the border area.

The Thais had long denied they had direct dealings with the Khmer Rouge, loathed the periodic public fallout from revelations to the contrary, and were under intense international scrutiny and United Nations official directive to not assist them.

My trip across the border from Surin in Thailand to Khmer Rouge zones was not a new scenario. I had made these forays many times before. And both the Thai and American intelligence officers trusted me. I could have burned them all many times over the years, and I never did.

I never revealed how I accessed the guerrilla zones or who assisted me. I knew which secrets to keep and which ones to spill and they appreciated that.

One thing I rarely reported was what means and methods of getting to the story I sought or used which might jeopardize a source. The process was usually full of intrigue and would make a good read, but all officials involved operated covertly and therefore were deeply suspicious of journalists.

I never betrayed a promise or source from any faction, agency or government.

By the time of Pol Pot’s death in 1998, no governments, even China, who previously appeared unconcerned with international opinion, could be seen as having friendly—or any—relations with the Khmer Rouge.

But everyone knew I still maintained good contacts with the guerrillas, and as a journalist this was wholly legitimate.

Beholden to no one, I could hold the mantle of an independent, neutral journalist around my neck, which I defended proudly and without compromise.

I had no political problems with associating with international pariahs and murderers. It started as my job. And I rather enjoyed it.

Rogue people and states fascinated me. And then it became my obsession.

But the night of Pol Pot’s death, in many ways, marked when that particular episode of my life’s long efforts were finally over.

It was midnight now. Pol Pot was dead. I felt numb mainly, but also relieved.

I drank straight whiskey from a glass, re-organized my gear to cross the border in a few hours at dawn.

I watched Monica Lewinsky play over and over on CNN, flashbulbs sparking, as she fled into a courthouse, to face the full puissance of the American justice system.

It did not elude me that it was a twisted reality that the Lewinsky affairs sordid details of superfluous justice was far more newsworthy than that which had been deemed appropriate for pursuit of Pol Pot, who stood accused of crimes against humanity.

It was a fact that when he died, 20 years after his regime, which left 1.7 million people dead–1/4 of the population—in 3 years, 8 months, and 20 days in power, Pol Pot had never been charged by any court with any crime anywhere in the world.

When he died he was not formally, in the eyes of international law, a wanted man. In fact, it would have been a violation of his rights, sufficient to have any charges dismissed under international law, if he was captured and held against his will anywhere outside of Cambodia.

I knew that soon Pol Pot would be featured, perhaps not eclipsing but along with Monica, in the world press. It would leak to be a world story within hours. Once leaked, scores of journalists would descend on this Thai border town.

I wanted to get in and out of the jungle before the circus began…..

To be continued….

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No publication or transmission in whole or part allowed without express written permission of the author. Excerpts from the unpublished manuscript “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir From Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.”)

Excerpts from my unpublished book “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalists Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

10 Sep

Selected Excerpts from my unpublished book “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalists Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

By Nate Thayer

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights Reserved. No publication or citation permitted without author’s express written permission.)


By 1994, the Khmer Rouge leadership once again evaporated into the jungle. To my frustration, my methodically constructed stable of Khmer Rouge sources was now deep in hiding.

They continued to communicate with me through an elaborate network of underground  agents and Communist party cells. But it was a tortuous web, elaborately compartmentalized to obscure the identity and isolate the location of the guerrillas from their enemies.

It would often take weeks, even months for a message from the jungle to get to me in Phnom Penh. Sometimes they would contact me through intermediaries by phone or deceptively postmarked mail. Other times notes would be hand-delivered by well dressed strangers who arrived at my house unannounced, politely exchanged pleasantries, decline to introduce themselves, and hand me a sealed envelope.

They would then slip back out into the bustling city through the mazes of armed checkpoints, unpaid government soldiers to busy sleeping or extorting money to look for Khmer Rouge agents.

And I was always organizing my periodic trips across Cambodian government frontlines or over the Thai frontier to the guerrilla bases themselves.

Even though it was a war-zone, I felt most relaxed deep in the jungles. I felt much safer under the protection of the disciplined Khmer Rouge than the unpredictable anarchy in government towns.

In Phnom Penh, I slept with loaded automatic weapons by my bed and rarely left my house without a pistol and extra ammunition clips.

With the guerrillas, I always slept peacefully in my hammock, tied to two trees, a symphony of whooping monkeys and insect’s overhead, surrounded by armed bodyguards who were charged with ensuring no one harmed me.

Messages from my Khmer Rouge contacts were always short and vague, the circumspect handwritten scrawls on ripped out notepaper almost palpable with intrigue and fear.

“My Dear Friend, I got your message. If you can get here, we have already agreed to meet you. Ask our Thai friend who gives you this to help. You can trust him We have many difficulties and there are many things I need to talk urgently about,” read one typical unsigned note in its entirety.

Even their written messages seemed to rise off the page in a clandestine whisper.

There was urgency to their missives but they always left me unfulfilled, desperate to know more. Their culture of secrecy permeated their every breathing action, their every move the instinctual second nature of a hunted animal.

If you read the above message, you will notice, on second reading, there is no clue on why they wanted to meet, where the meeting was, when it would be, who it was with, or what it was about. The notes themselves, when they risked committing to paper, would not even betray whom it was from or that it was intended for me.

There was a feeling off stark vulnerability whenever engaging with the Khmer Rouge under such conditions. I never knew where I was going or when I would be back. I always went anyway.

All Khmer Rouge communication was like this. It is a fundamental lesson in all clandestine services: reveal nothing that isn’t absolutely necessary to accomplish your mission—and after decades in the jungles the Khmer Rouge had hones it to an art.

This succeeded in leaving them firmly in control of all encounters and maximally impenetrable to their enemies.

And make no mistake. They had no doubt I was an enemy agent.

Given their historically intolerant view of the likes of me, I was always keenly alert around them. If it was expedient or useful, I never had any doubt my closest Khmer Rouge sources would kill me without emotion. And they often changed their minds of whether one was a friend or foe.

Most of those killed by the Khmer Rouge were loyal cadre who had been deemed, almost always out of unfounded paranoia, ‘exposed’ as an enemy agent. For Khmer Rouge cadre, it was, in fact, more dangerous to be a Khmer Rouge loyalist than their enemy.

But such political thinking was fundamental to Cambodian political culture and all political leaders and parties operated under such a psychological foundation for pursuing and maintaining power.

No one trusted anyone else, including one’s closest comrades. Betrayal and purges had been fundamental to Cambodian politics throughout modern history.

It is rare to meet any Cambodian who has a problem with murdering civilians as a concept. The parameters of the moral debate are simply confined to the merits of the victims.

But importantly, in 1992, I had been formally deemed a potentially useful enemy by Pol Pot himself, I was told by a Khmer Rouge cadre close to the top leader. Pol Pot had ordered that a channel be kept open to me. He had deemed me useful to getting their message out in as empirical and neutral manner as they could hope for.

His reasoning was that my writings were read by those world figures who were involved in forming Cambodian policy. I was guardedly comfortable with that. In Cambodia, that is the best a foreigner can hope for: A strategic enemy but tactical ally.

In 1993, some of the top cadre with whom I had become close sought permission to communicate with me without prior notification of and approval from the party. When Pol Pot agreed, this was a crucial development in improving my access.

All cadre knew it was unwise to question the wisdom of Pol Pot, and followed his orders unquestionably. Pol Pot’s absolute control of all aspects of the organization’s activities presupposed that a Khmer Rouge cadre simply did not have encounters with an American, little less establish a personal relationship, without the clear approval of Pol Pot himself. The penalty for such recklessness was death.

Pol Pot’s sanction of limited access for me was the function of the quality, influence, and reputation of the primary publications I worked for.

The Far Eastern Economic Review, my primary employer, was the finest newsweekly on Asia—and required reading around the globe for the limited number of diplomats, officials, academics, businessmen, and journalists interested in the region.  

It was authoritative and serious and scrupulous and courageous in the quality and accuracy of its in-depth, often exclusive reporting. It covered even the most obscure reaches of Asia comprehensively with depth and persistence and insight.

Countries like Cambodia have few readers and advertisers and this was a key reason why most media devoted few full time resources to its coverage. When something happened in Cambodia—or elsewhere in remote corners of Asia—the Review had already provided the context and preludes that preceded the breaking news.

It was also in a unique position to have in place people who had the sources and knowledge to provide superior coverage.

It was a reporters magazine, driven by an eclectic group of correspondents who often had years of history in the areas they covered. The reporting was backed up by superb editing which ensured its  content was fair, comprehensive, and accurate.

The Phnom Penh Post—the first independent newspaper in Indochina since 1975—was a courageous, scrappy, and detailed bi-weekly newspaper that was read by everyone in Cambodia who was involved in any aspect of policy. It published the details and gave the space that only a local paper can provide.

It was started in 1992 by my good friend Michael Hayes, an American who had no newspaper or business experience who had left his work as a humanitarian aid official with the Asia Society, and started the paper with his own life savings from scratch.

I lived at the Phnom Penh Post during my years in Cambodia in a three story villa which housed the newspaper offices, production facilities, and the living quarters of Michael, his wife Kathleen, and myself. It was a center of constant hubbub, with a steady 24-hour stream of incoming journalists, varied visitors, sources, and newspaper employees producing the paper.

I also wrote for Jane’s Defence Weekly, the preeminent authority on military matters, and the Washington Post, which was required reading by everyone in Washington.

Between them, the Khmer Rouge expected that, in their attempt to spread their message, an honest, accurate analysis that would have a far reaching impact would emerge.

They were often not happy with my missives, but also knew that very little could be written which would further blacken their reputation. “ We believe you are serious,” they said to me more than once. They were used to being the target of often inaccurate, speculative, and invariably hostile reporting that focused only on their years in power.

In contrast, we covered current issues regarding them as well. I always provided background context that included their atrocious history and current dictatorship, but they were used to this after years of unrelenting criticism. They knew full well that they were culpable, and respected my criticism of their organization as long as it was accurate and comprehensive, regardless of the requisite negative content.

Aside from my forays into the jungle, I was used to meeting more cosmopolitan Khmer Rouge political leaders and diplomats in five-star hotel lobbies and at diplomatic functions.

But after 1994, two years after he withdrew the Khmer Rouge from participating in the UN election process, Pol Pot ordered them all back to the jungle. I wasn’t even sure where along the 800-kilometer swath of mountainous jungles over the Thai border my Khmer Rouge sources were hiding.

Innumerable times, I travelled for days to remote villages near the Thai frontier on instruction from the Khmer Rouge to meetings. As often as not, a liaison would never materialize. Or I would be guided to an obscure guerrilla base where some mid-level cadre would spout useless propaganda already broadcast verbatim over their clandestine radio.

Hungry for gossip, news, or rumour, I relentlessly pursued any source that might offer information. I flew to cities in Asia, North America, and Europe trying to glean information from shadowy sympathizers, relatives of cadre, and former guerrillas who had left the movement, and other underground operatives. I met with spies and diplomats from numerous countries charged with tracking the guerrillas. And I was constantly in contact with Cambodians of all political affiliations, whose agenda I covered equally, and who often knew of activities within the Khmer Rouge through their fellow Cambodians.

Each of these encounters, sometimes involving weeks of work, would perhaps produce only a quote or single detail or a rumour to pursue or confirm. I would sort these tidbits of knowledge and carefully piece them together, constructing a portrait of what was happening in the jungle and publish it as an article. It was a frustrating, tedious, and usually fruitless business reporting on the Khmer Rouge: that is why there was effectively on one else who bothered to try. But I enjoyed the methodical challenge and it fit my personality to work alone and focus to fruition on a single task.

But for most of the world, by 1995 the Khmer Rouge leadership had simply slipped silently into the impenetrable forests of northwest Cambodia, contact severed completely, and guerrilla war resumed. Like a disturbed hornet’s nest, they dispatched small, angry squads of troops to attack around the country, emerging from the jungle to strike vulnerable government outposts, massacre ethnic Vietnamese civilians, and blow up trains and bridges. They then immediately evaporated back into the forest.

“The resistance forces are everywhere. We can attack the two-headed, one-eyed puppets and their American bosses everywhere!,” a secret 1995 internal directive by the Khmer Rouge leadership to military commanders said, referring to the fragile UN elected coalition government of co-prime ministers, and to the war wound that left Hun Sen blinded in one eye when he was a loyal lieutenant of Pol Pot. “We can cut the highway anywhere, any bridge and culvert. We are going to cut it over and over until the two headed government…and the Americans turn their tail and run.” The directive instructed: “ Cut the enemies throat! Cut the enemies throat! Cut the enemies blood arteries! Tragic fit, tragic death to all the enemies near and far!”

Nothing was subtle with the Khmer Rouge. This is how they talked in conversation, sputtering vitriol and contempt for the rest of the country who they had dehumanized simply because they weren’t loyal to them.

Westerners who stumbled into Khmer Rouge units after 1993 were regularly kidnapped and brutally executed. They included, as well as many Asian nationalities, Australians, Americans, Belgium’s, French, German, and British citizens. I was involved in every case. They all died an appalling death. I was to learn eventually that their executioners included some of my closest Khmer Rouge friends. Each and every one of their families contacted me, my telephone number given to them by their governments who were unable to assist them. They had been told I might have influence or leverage with the guerrillas and they were desperate for help in saving their husbands, sons, and daughters.

These remain some of my most painful experiences. I was not able to save any of them. I did, often after months of work, gather the grisly details of the demise of each. I remain haunted by the stricken, inconsolable anguish on the faces of their loved ones. They invariably wanted to know every last bit of gruesome information.

It is equally true for the millions of Cambodians who were, in some ways, unlucky enough to survive the Khmer Rouge brutal years in power.

But, by 1995, behind the veneer of confidence and aggressiveness, there was a cancer metastasizing at the heart of the Khmer Rouge movement.

I knew from the private whispers of grunt Khmer Rouge soldiers on the frontlines and forests, Pol Pot’s 1992 decision to pull out of the Paris Peace Agreements, forego the internationally recognized 1993 UN elections, and break the cease-fire, was considered by many Khmer Rouge cadres as a disastrous, perhaps fatal mistake. Thousands of rank-and-file felt this way but seethed in silence.

Expressing disagreement on such matters was suicide. But the reality was self-evident. Pol Pot and his small group of core leadership were very much like the emperor with no clothes. Instead of bringing them closer to power or peace, the Khmer Rouge were now utterly isolated, opposed by the mass of the peasantry, covert foreign military and material aid severed by China and Thailand, and at war once again. Morale was abysmal.

After two decades of war and unspeakable suffering, the hopes and opportunity for peace that came with the 1991 signing of the Paris Peace Accords had been squandered. Many Khmer Rouge cadre believed that their leaders had failed them and were deeply disappointed. Others were bitter and angry. But expressing opinion or dissent within the Khmer Rouge was unthinkable.

And to add to the simmering frustration of the Khmer Rouge, in the eyes of their enemies they were increasingly not viewed  as a serious threat. For an organization that took pride—in the manner of a neighborhood gang of bullies—in forcing others to accommodate their demands through intimidation and sheer terror to be largely ignored by their enemies, was deeply demeaning. And a humiliated Khmer Rouge had the potential to strike back irrationally to demand attention. They were dangerous enough when they were rational.

After the 1993 UN elections, the Khmer Rouge’s biggest threat, in fact, came from within their own ranks.

Swatting malarial mosquitoes and eating plain rice seasoned only with salt and sprinkled with dried fish boiled on an open jungle campfire, sleeping in their hammocks slung between trees in the forest, rank and file cadre listened with growing resentment to short-wave radio broadcasts of the international embracement of the government that emerged from the 1993 UN elections.

Foreign companies, diplomatic recognition and international aid flooded to their enemies, bolstering their legitimacy and threatening the Khmer Rouge with becoming sidelined as a superfluous political force.

The Khmer Rouge, in contrast, remained without electricity, running water, health care, schools, and, increasingly, hope that they would ever taste the fruits of peace, little less victory.

Never willing to address unpleasant realities, the Khmer Rouge went to absurd lengths to put a positive spin on their increasingly desperate conditions. “Our army, our guerrilla forces , are more and more respectable regarding their view, their political knowledge, their economical situation, their welfare, their attitude toward the peaceful relation scheme, their stance on spying activity, and their awareness of the undermining activity,” wrote the top Khmer Rouge leadership to senior commanders in a secret policy and military strategy directive in November 1995. “Thanks to these qualities, the number of our cadre are multiplying; the number of our forces increases; and our forces are more disciplined, more decisive, braver and more resolute to fighting the two-headed national traitors, slaves of the Vietnamese communists and their alliance. The slaves of the Vietnamese communists and their alliance are being swollen, decomposed, and rotten, all devoured by maggots, and having no more flesh.”

The Khmer Rouge, like all Cambodian political factions, seethed in hatred and utterly intractable absolutes. This is the bane of Cambodian political culture—not just the Khmer Rouge—and central to understanding the unending instability in Cambodia. There is no concept of compromise or common good, little less common ground. If you disagreed with the Khmer Rouge, you were a “slave” of the “national traitors.” One did not seek to just defeat the enemy, but preferred to see their bodies not just dead but “rotting” and “devoured by maggots.” You didn’t just execute someone who opposed you, you tortured and humiliated them first, and then murdered their wives and children.

Not only were the Khmer Rouge short of friends and money, but weapons and ammunition. The cessation of foreign and military aid was addressed by boastful self-delusions that they were self sufficient.

In 1995, they ordered all soldiers and civilians to meet a quota of carving homemade bamboo stakes and other crude weapons. “The strategic weapons that we now call our ‘main forces’, sharp pointed soldiers, very sharp are punji sticks, and booby traps. These are the strategic weapons we experimented with and the results are highly effective. These forces are located all over, and bamboo, woods, poisons, resins, machetes, axes, and knives are all locally abundant. It can be said that factories making strategic weapons to fight the enemies exist locally and are abundant all over, in lakes and rivers.”

This was the Khmer Rouge leadership’s response to the cutoff of covert military aid from China and the 1994 UN imposed sealing of the border with trade from Thailand. To Khmer Rouge soldiers who had to face the reality of a well-armed enemy in battle, this was not only profoundly insulting, it was life threatening. Their leaders were now asserting that bamboo stakes constituted superior firepower.

As a result of such preposterousness, Khmer Rouge cadre increasingly directed their resentment not so much at their enemy as at their own leaders.

Many Khmer Rouge felt their future was passing them by. Defections of frontline troops increased. Morale was abysmal. Soldiers pulled back in battle rather than risk death in a war they now had only a veneer of allegiance to. The blind loyalty of armed cadre long demanded by their faceless leadership, and enforced by fear, was on the brink of dangerously unraveling.

And the Khmer Rouge leadership reacted by cracking down on their own loyalists.

Ta Mok, the Khmer Rouge top military field commander and Army chief-of-staff, not so affectionately known as “The Butcher”, lamented that “pacifism has entered our cadres” and that “there is confusion, a blending of our essence and our enemies,” referring to increasing contact with villagers in government run frontline areas and growing sympathies among his troops to end the  war. The Khmer Rouge top leadership ordered all contacts severed with villages not strictly under their control. “We have continued to exist with them, eat with them, peacefully allied with them to the point that some of our own cadres and ranks have repeatedly been put in danger. In some of our units, enemy elements comprise 50-60%.” To be deemed an “enemy element” was a spine chilling accusation.

Their leaders made clear to their subordinates, in a secret internal document distributed to frontline units at the time, that they were being closely watched. “Our first responsibility is we must be clean. Our major responsibility is to clean up our act,” warning not to sympathize with proposed negotiations to end the war which they referred to as “the peaceful relationship scheme.” “Our ranks , our cadre, must be clean, our skin clear, free of smell, no peaceful relationship scheme, no spying activity, no internal undermining, nothing to be compromised at all…”

When, that same year of 1995, the leadership ordered troops to attack and burn to the ground front-line villages in northern Siem Riep province they suspected of not being sufficiently sympathetic, more than 1000 Khmer Rouge troops defected instead of carrying out the order.

When I visited, the scene was surreal. Hundreds of Khmer Rouge soldiers in pea green Chinese PLA style uniforms lounged in the markets, flirting with local village girls, their commanders firing artillery they had taken with them, now firing back at their former comrades just past the tree line that marked the border from the rice paddies to the guerrilla jungles they had inhabited for thirty some years until only days earlier. “When we went to fight, we didn’t see other nationalities,” said former Khmer Rouge battalion commander Tung Yun. “ we fought because we were ordered to do so, but in our hearts none of us wanted war anymore.” He spoke for thousands of others still in the jungles.

In an atmosphere that forbids questioning the policies of their leaders, with no outlet to vent their disappointment and debate the merits of returning to war, conditions were ripe for an internal Khmer Rouge explosion of violence.

To be honestly transparent, in retrospect, part of me viewed this growing international and domestic consensus for peace and stability as a fundamental career threat.

But while I loved being a war correspondent, this war was now meaningless.

The fact was, by 1994, I, too, was tired of this war. I, too, did not want to be the proverbial last person to die in a war which now clearly had no purpose other than each side trying to secure raw and maximum power.

After the withdrawal of the Vietnamese occupying troops in 1991 and the United Nations forces in 1993, it was now a war without issues, stripped to the carcass of armed conflict which is simply mans raw excersize of his most primal, uncivilized instinct for power and vengeance through violence and superior force; simply a winner takes all bloody grab for power.

And the rank and file on all sides knew it. The soldiers from all the political factions still at war were nothing more complicated than pawns for a few hundred powerful and rich so-called leaders who weren’t courageous enough to wage peace and just wanted all of the pie. Many rank and file on both sides refused to fight seriously when ordered to battle, firing from a safe distance and reluctant to engage in tactics which threatened their lives.

By 1995, I had only one more objective in Cambodia, and that was to meet and speak with and interview Pol Pot. And ask him two simple questions. “Why?” And “Are you sorry?” And then, I told myself, I would leave this wicked society forever.

I viewed brewing dissatisfaction within the Khmer Rouge as creating cracks in their armour, opening up potential new means of access for me.

Where there was turmoil, there was increased opportunity I could wangle my way into the heart of the Khmer Rouge central command. I had found that the Khmer Rouge opened up to me when they had difficulties, which often left them with issues they wanted to clarify or explain to outsiders. Turmoil and weakness increased the possibility that they might have to play that card.

And I was constantly scheming to see that the vehicle they used to do so would be me. I was always encouraging, maneuvering for, and poised to take advantage of such contacts. I approached it as an endless chess game requiring strategy and patience and an intimate knowledge of one’s opponent. I knew from viewing the chessboard that I was closing in, however slowly, on their King, Pol Pot. Obstacles were being removed and I was advancing.

For years my biggest fear was Pol Pot would die before I was able to meet him. I would wake at night, my stomach in knots, with the thoughts of years of effort being concomitantly extinguished with his last breath. Barring that, I was convinced that one day I would meet him face-to-face and Pol Pot would have to answer the questions that haunted his broken countrymen.

In 1996, through smuggled letters, meetings with their underground operatives, and visits to their guerrilla bases across the frontier Thai borders in the jungles of Cambodia’s north, I pushed harder for them to allow me access to their leadership, arguing plausibly that they clearly had to try something new.

The Cambodian government and the international community were perplexed by  the silence of the Khmer Rouge leadership and unclear what they wanted. They had let no one deep into their territory for four years–since my last visit—and they could see clearly they were in a weaker position since disengaging from the outside world.

They didn’t have to be convinced that they needed to do something, but they didn’t know what. They needed to reengage their movement to the Cambodian political process.

What they needed rather than their tired, failed tactics of vitriolic rhetoric and terror was, I suggested, to shed light on their internal movement to lessen the blackened mystique that had shrouded their movement and Pol Pot in for forty years. Much of that mystique was not politically threatening to them, but simply allowing access to the personalities and daily life in their control zones.

My perennially repeated request was that they allow an independent, credible witness as unfettered access as possible. A fresh look from inside their territory, talking with their loyalists, couldn’t possibly result in them having a diminished reputation in the eyes of the world, I repeated to their cadres. They were already a household name worldwide synonymous with unspeakable brutality and senseless violence. In the eyes of the world and most of their countrymen, they were already the devil incarnate and they knew it.

There was certainly nothing I could write that would further blacken their image.

Many Khmer Rouge cadre sympathized and were, to a degree, in awe of the sometimes ridiculous and always relentless lengths I had gone over the years attempting to access their inner sanctums and interview Pol Pot.

My persistence, I think, struck some familiar chord of revolutionary self-sacrifice-against-daunting-odds. Perhaps many of them could relate, having disappeared as eager, patriotic youths into the jungle more than twenty years earlier, waiting for naught the revolutionary victory.

If they weren’t impressed, at least they were entertained by this shaved-headed American who wouldn’t go away. And if they weren’t entertained, I had regardless become a kind of fixture, like some half-mad Dennis the Menace to the Khmer Rouge’s Mr. Wilson, with whom they grew resigned to affectionately tolerate.

They had, over time, tried everything to reject me—arrested me at gunpoint, shot at me, ordered me killed, banished me, robbed me, and handed me over the border in disgust to be arrested by Thai authorities.

I became rather legendary within the Khmer Rouge army, I was to learn, as this reckless, perhaps insane, rather likeable American who would appear in the oddest of circumstances. Literally nothing dissuaded me.

I was fully cognizant and reconciled to the fact that there was s strong chance I would die in these jungles. I always tried to be smart with tactics, having committed to a strategy that required accepting a high level of intrinsic danger. But I never once rejected going into a war-zone simply because it was dangerous.

I continued to show up, uninvited, over the years in virtually every corner of their jungles, often where no foreigner had ever been. I arrived by foot, captured Russian military vehicles, driven by defecting government soldiers during battle, on the back of an elephant, bicycle, dirt bikes supplied by the CIA to non-communist guerrilla allies, by river in commandeered sampans, ox-cart, rented helicopter, accompanied by United Nations troops, guided by my own hired mercenaries, escorted by Thai military intelligence liaisons, with Thai businessmen who traded with the guerrillas, logging trucks, and even by taxi cab ( I can remember more than once the driver of my hired car simply refusing to go any further into the scrub and abandoning me to walk the last few miles).

I once traversed the trench lines into Khmer Rouge territory driving a government military officer’s Russian jeep, adorned with full government regalia identifying the vehicle, which I had rented from a corrupt Cambodian general. I remember startled guerrilla troops popping up from bunkers, leaves and branches crudely camouflaging their helmets, as I weaved through frontline trenches and around minefields in abandoned rice paddies. I was advised by unamused Khmer Rouge commanders never, ever to do that again.

Almost always, I arrived under dangerous circumstances, through combat frontlines, from enemy-held  territory, over mountains, crossing national borders, always through a minefield, from north, south, east and west, essentially to be turned away, mainly empty-handed, time and time again.

I didn’t mid the rejection. The chase itself was a fun-filled adventure, a young man’s fantasy.

My visits to the Khmer Rouge zones didn’t endear me to the government forces either, who regularly tried to kill me.

Spies are ubiquitous in Cambodia. The government would know I was in Khmer rouge zones within a very short time, often within hours. I listened to government field radio reports broadcasting my location to front-line troops. They would then rocket our position. This, in turn, didn’t endear me to the guerrilla troops with whom I was visiting.

In general, I was viewed as a problem.

Many had concluded my very presence was simply a pain in the ass. There was often a mood shift which seemed to elicit an inaudible groan when I would arrive.

But I was the only westerner many of the Khmer Rouge cadre  and jungle fighters had ever had contact with.  So there was the ever present animal in the zoo factor. It was not unusual for large crowds of Khmer Rouge civilians and soldiers, some walking for days, to gather at a safe distance and gawk at me for hours.

Old ladies would squat and chew betel nut, spitting and exchange raucous commentary with each other. “ Are they all fat and bald?” one toothless old lady asked my bodyguard in a remote village which had never hosted a foreigner before.

I remember clearly one time squatting around a fire late at night deep in the jungle just north of the great temples of Angkor Wat, monkeys crying from the tall canopy of trees. I had walked for two weeks from Thailand with non-communist guerrillas accompanying them on a mission to attack government positions. We often encountered Khmer Rouge guerrillas who shared the jungle with their then coalition partners fighting the common enemy, the occupying Vietnamese army and their installed government in Phnom Penh.

A grizzled Khmer Rouge cadre was casually drawing battle plans in the dirt with a stick, explaining to other young fighters the next morning’s attack. He pointed to a small village, thrusting his stick in the dirt and raw hatred flashing from his eyes, hissed “Tomorrow, we will turn it into a rice field!”

Several minutes into the preview of the intended assault he looked across at me squatting on my haunches a few feet away from him, locked on my eyes in abrupt recognition, and lept back with a cry of terror.

“Joy Marey! Barong moek Howee!” Translation: “Motherfucker! A white foreigner has arrived!” was the totality of his exact words. He literally grabbed an AK-47 assault rifle, jumped to his feet, clutched his heart and paced back and forth, taking deep breaths and cursing for a few minutes to recover.

Everyone who fit my description, after all, was the enemy, of whom he had only seen pictures of over the years. And to see a vision of the devil himself, a blue-eyed, bearded, bald one, armed and dressed in combat fatigues staring at him from across the campfire deep in the jungle, was too much for him to process.

The poor man never seemed quite to recover. He glared at me for days afterwards, his face furrowed in a queer mix of raw hate and confusion.

To try and keep track of the inner workings of the Khmer Rouge was not just a matter of analyzing information. That was the easier part—a skill developed by following the nuances of their historical methodology and rhetoric.

The hard part was getting credible, first-hand information. Elevating secrecy to an art form, the Khmer Rouge obscured and compartmentalized all levels of information so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the enemy, which by 1995 was a category that included every single nation on earth and most Cambodian citizens.

I was keenly aware, each time I went into their territory, it was a category that clearly also included me.

For the time being, however, I continued to be a potentially useful enemy whose channel, by order of Pol Pot himself, remained open. I comforted myself by dwelling on the fact, particularly when I was being glared at by armed Khmer Rouge, that every Khmer Rouge cadre knew that it would be suicidal to harm someone who Pol Pot thought might be useful.

My relationship with the Khmer Rouge had evolved in the early 1990’s to include, by default, nothing less than perhaps their primary liaison to the West.

They did not think of me as a sympathizer. Indeed, in their perpetual state of rather astounding and logic-muddled paranoia, they had concluded that I was a paid operative of the Central Intelligence Agency. “We have discussed whether you are CIA and decided it doesn’t really matter,” one Khmer Rouge diplomat told me matter of factly once.

They politely attempted to maintain the charade that they thought I was an independent journalist, but we both knew they didn’t believe it. They simply did not understand the concept of someone who did not serve the interests of—was under the control of—the government that issued ones passport.

They often used the term “you” when referring to the US government or angrily condemned me for some Washington policy. I would ritually correct them. And they would apologize half-heartedly.

The irony is US law forbids the CIA from recruiting journalists employed by American owned media, and the Far Eastern Economic Review was owned by Dow Jones—perhaps the most iconic symbol of world capitalism.

So, while extensive, my dealings with CIA operatives were often a tortuous process themselves that rivaled the Khmer Rouge, with many having to go through acrobatic lawyer-driven hoops to receive prior permission from Washington before meeting me. Some simply ignored the directive from Langley, and I count many intelligence officials—from a broad range of competing countries—among my friends.

It was helpful that the Khmer Rouge faced a couple of basic problems that worked to my advantage. Even before they retreated back to the jungle in 1992, many governments banned their officials from any direct contact with the guerrillas or their representatives. Even at diplomatic functions and cocktail parties, the Khmer Rouge was shunned.

US policy went so far as to specifically prohibit initiating contact at cocktail parties. U.S. government officials were allowed—by written directive—to return, but not offer, a verbal greetings or handshake. This tied the hands of intelligence agents or diplomats  who were on one hand tasked with gathering information on the guerrilla group, and on the other forbidden from dealing with them directly. I, of course, had no such problem.

At cocktail parties, Khmer Rouge officials would often be standing alone, clearly uncomfortable in their western suits, looking grumpy as they held a cocktail they wouldn’t drink, being ignored and eyed simultaneously, not unlike a pedophile relative at a family gathering.

I not only had no problem chatting them up, I  reveled in it.

I particularly liked National Day celebrations, held by virtually every countries embassy once a year. By protocol, the entire diplomatic list and other dignitaries and select nationals of the country would be invited, including the Khmer Rouge. Those functions to which I wasn’t invited, I crashed. I have attended scores over the years.

The hotel ballrooms and ambassador’s living rooms are filled with people who would normally refuse my telephone calls. It was a diplomat’s nightmare and journalists dream; stuck being chatted up by a journalist he had long tried to avoid.

Often the Khmer Rouge diplomat would be found in the corner with the North Korean or some other third world pariah. Afterwards, it wasn’t unusual to be grilled by jealous but thankful diplomats who needed something to write in their cable to the home office on their rare Khmer Rouge encounter.

The second basic problem, after the Khmer Rouge retreated back to their jungle redoubts, was often simply a matter of logistics. Dialogue from the jungle is a pain in the neck. Aside from the issues of safety and political will, physical access was extremely difficult. Normal modes of contact—such as telephone, email, meetings in obscure seedy bars or fancy hotel lobbies were, of course, not possible or practical.

In 1996, I took a sabbatical from reporting from Phnom Penh to be a visiting scholar at a Washington academic think tank. It was not unrelated to a rather incendiary series of articles I had written naming both Cambodian Prime Ministers as being bankrolled by and, in exchange, giving political protection to, a major Asian heroin trafficker and organized crime figure.

One day in 1996, while in my office at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, I got a call from a friend in Europe with a message. The Khmer Rouge wanted to see me urgently. Could I come to the jungle? The message was to go to the remote sleepy Thai border town of Surin, and check into a particular hotel as soon as possible. When I arrived at the hotel, I was to call a particular phone number in Europe and give my hotel room number. I was then to wait for someone to contact me. That was the entirety of the message.

It was a typical set-up for a meeting with the Khmer Rouge. No mention of who I was to meet, where I would go, when I would be contacted, or what the subject matter would concern. I didn’t even know who within the Khmer Rouge was contacting me.

The routing of the message was typical in its circuitous layers to obscure any prying eyes or ears. And it was designed for the Khmer Rouge to remain in complete control of the process of me arriving in their territory.

It denied me any ability to double-cross them if I was so inclined, or to pass on sensitive information to any foreign intelligence officials.

It also left me very vulnerable if something were to go wrong. There was always a palpable undercurrent of dark unease for me with these people.

A Khmer Rouge “former” diplomat in Paris, who was married to a French woman and therefore held French citizenship and was allowed to remain in France, served as one of the guerrillas primary contacts in Europe.

The Khmer Rouge “former” diplomat in Paris had been contacted by another Khmer Rouge “former” diplomat living underground in Bangkok (in a safe house maintained by Thai military intelligence). That diplomat maintained human runners who would be dispatched back and forth overland across the Thai border into the jungle.

The diplomat in Paris had called my friend. My friend, a Franco-Khmer, was trusted by the Khmer Rouge but not a member of the Party. He, in turn, was known to be close to me.

The leadership in the jungle relayed information to me in Washington this way.

None of the intermediaries were told more than they needed to know beyond getting a message to me. Even if they were inclined to talk they didn’t have any information. The “former” diplomat in Paris had one fully equipped man, trained in China as a coded communication specialist, who could transmit and receive top secret messages from a counterpart in the jungle in times of crisis.

So, as always, I told my friend to reply I would be departing immediately and to relay the message that I would check into the specific hotel as instructed in Surin, Thailand within 72 hours. I boarded a plane from Washington’s Dulles international airport that night for the 36 hour flight to Bangkok. From Bangkok it was a 10 hour drive to the border town.

From the hotel, I dialed a contact number in Europe and informed my contact simply the number of the hotel room I had checked into.

No names were used. No countries were mentioned. Certainly no words intimating any outlawed guerrilla groups culpable for committing crimes against humanity were uttered. Even the name of the hotel was omitted.

“How are you, my friend?” I said. “I have arrived fine. I am in number 302. I will wait here.’

“I will let my friends know now. They will contact you. Be careful.”

He couldn’t tell me who, where or what to expect or when I could expect to know when I would be contacted to not to be informed, then, either, of any of these details.

Then I waited….for days. I forget how many, but several.

Mainly I stayed drunk. I did sit-ups and ran in place. I left the room for one hour each afternoon to swim at a lap pool in the town. I ate rice and noodles from the lobby nightclub, which doubled as a karaoke bar, coffee shop, and whorehouse.

I prepared for an interview with Pol Pot. I cleaned my camera equipment and read literature and documents on the Khmer Rouge I always kept for distraction. I had read everything at least once before.

I had no idea whether I was to walk through the jungle for days, whether I would meet important leaders, including Pol Pot, or when my contacts would arrive to retrieve me.

All that uncertainty requires contingency preparation: jungle clothes, still cameras, video camera, batteries, film, notebooks, hammock, mosquito net, food, rolls of chewing tobacco, whiskey and Ziploc bags of all sizes to protect against the daily monsoon rains. Everything had to fit perfectly inside a small Khmer Rouge knapsack on my back in case I had to walk for days.

And I couldn’t really leave the hotel room not knowing when the Khmer Rouge operatives would arrive and not wanting to draw attention to myself in a town where there are very few western visitors who aren’t up to no good.

The small hotel staff knew me well after years of coming though, and it was no secret what, in general, I was up to. They knew I was going to nearby Cambodia, where there was a war, but they really didn’t want to know any more than that.

I would always leave the lobby, usually before dawn, not checking out, dressed in jungle clothing with a backpack and laden with camera equipment.

Often, I wouldn’t return for days, muddy and dirty and accompanied by fit men in crew cuts and sunglasses. These were my Thai military intelligence escorts who ferried me across the border through a myriad of Thai checkpoints who didn’t speak much and dressed in civilian clothes. They had a particular ID card that seemed to grip any other Thai official’s attention with an immediate positive response and silent accommodation. This had always precluded the hotel staff previously of inquiring who I was or what I was doing.

This time there were no Thai officials to greet me and smooth my egress across national borders.

Then one rainy morning at 0600 there was a firm knock on the door. I asked who it was: First in Thai, then in English, then in Cambodian. After a long pause, a hushed voice replied in Khmer: “It’s me.”


Copyright Nate Thayer. Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalists Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge” All Rights Reserved. No publication or citation permitted without author’s express written permission.) 

North Korea: The World’s Only Mafia Crime State

9 Sep

North Korea: The World’s Only Mafia Crime State

How North Korea Funds their Army, Nuclear Weapons Programme. and Small Group of Elite Cadre in Control

(Excerpts from an unpublished study of the criminal syndicates run by Kim Jong Il as central State policy)

(Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in full or in part without express written permission of the author)

By Nate Thayer

North Korea is the only nation where it is central government policy to operate as a systematic criminal syndicate through a myriad of state controlled illicit activities. According to evidence compiled over a recent six month investigation, the North Korean government has, since at least 1974, run a worldwide network of diplomats, intelligence operatives, military, and other government officials, as well as state controlled front companies that use the rights and powers of a sovereign state to manage illegal operations worldwide.

North Korean government operatives have intentionally violated laws in at least 106 countries in over 500 incidents as it has repeatedly evaded and ignored a series of  multi lateral agreements and increasingly stricter sanctions imposed by the United Nations, as well as the laws of sovereign nations around the world.

Together these criminal activities, strictly controlled and coordinated by the ruling Korean Workers Party of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), have used thousands of North Koreans from school children to some of an estimated 200,000 political prisoners as forced labor in the opium poppy fields, to workers in the manufacturing plants processing heroin, methamphetamine, fake pharmaceuticals, counterfeit US currency, counterfeit foreign cigarettes, as well as a sophisticated secret weapons systems and nuclear weapons development program. To oversee the production, manufacture, transport, and export of these products, they have employed the full apparatus of state institutions. These have included the use of military vessels, intelligence officials, diplomats, their foreign embassies, and a complex web of more than a hundred state controlled front companies with networks around the world,

Increasingly, after years of international scrutiny of North Korean officials abroad and hundreds of seizures in dozens of countries, they are partnering with established international criminal syndicates in China, other Asian countries, Russia, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States to distribute these illicit commodities around the globe. Since at least 1976, dozens of government operatives on official missions out of North Korea, many travelling on formal diplomatic status, have  been apprehended for possession and smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, counterfeit U.S. dollars, narcotics including heroin, hashish, opium, methamphetamine, and cocaine, and large quantities of controlled pharmaceuticals. In addition North Korean diplomats have been arrested, detained, or expelled from numerous countries for other lucrative crimes such as smuggling of endangered species parts, African ivory, counterfeit CD’s, and large amounts of untaxed alcohol and cigarettes hidden in diplomatic pouches, among other illicit goods. The products and their proceeds from these global operations have often moved around the world using officials travelling with diplomatic passports, who, under the Geneva accords of 1961, enjoy immunity from search, arrest, or prosecution.

As well, North Korean officials, and government controlled front corporations who operate internationally, and international crime syndicates working with the DPRK government, have been implicated in many countries as they  distribute the goods and try to launder the proceeds from their illicit syndicates through international banking systems. Dozens of diplomats have been detained and expelled, some quietly, from countries in Africa, Asia, Russia, China, Europe, and South America. The activities of these state sponsored criminal enterprises have been identified in at least 106 countries on all continents except Antarctica, from 1976 through 2011, according to data compiled.

Revenue from this network in turn funds the elite of the Korean Workers Party, a repressive regime at home that defies U.S. and UN sanctions as it pursues a hostile foreign policy producing and exporting nuclear and sophisticated military technology that destabilizes countries and regions worldwide.

North Korea has been formally rebuked repeatedly by unanimous votes of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and other affected countries for covertly evading a number of international prohibitions imposed on the isolated and secretive nation for developing and exporting sophisticated ballistic missile systems and nuclear technology. Some of the recipient nations, which are also banned from receiving such military technology, include Burma, Libya, Iran, and Syria. As well, North Korea has been exposed for violating repeated U.N sanctions prohibiting them from importing products for use in their programs of developing long range ballistic missiles, and weapons of mass destruction including the purchase of components for building chemical, biological and nuclear weapons systems.

It is believed that a substantial amount of the proceeds from their state sponsored criminal syndicates, which are under the direct control of the ruling Korean Workers Party and do not get distributed through the formal government budget, are used to covertly fund their nuclear and military programs . Since the late 1980’s, they denied pursueing or possessing such technology, but more recently flaunt these capabilities, threatening to use them against declared enemies such as South Korea and the United States.

The proceeds from these illicit activities are estimated to equal 35-40% of the total revenue earned by the DPRK. Some estimate the illicit revenue to exceed 1 billion dollars a year. A significant portion of the revenue is  suspected to fund the regimes banned nuclear weapons production and a sophisticated ballistic weapons systems.  It is suspected that the proceeds, which by now may exceed $5 billion in reserves, have been variously shifted between banks in China, Singapore, Macau, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Austria, among other international accounts.

The criminal enterprises and the North Korean government agencies and officials who carry them out are coordinated by a highly secret unit, Bureau 39, (sometimes translated as ‘Office’ or ‘Room’ 39)  under the authority of the ruling Korean Workers Party that reports directly to Kim Jung Il.  The Bureau was created in 1974 specifically to raise hard currency to fund covert activities and as a source to reward elite party loyalists for continuing allegiance. It has offices throughout North Korea and more than 120 international front companies. It has 17 offices outside the DPRK, including China, Moscow, Macau, and Hong Kong. It’s primary purpose is to coordinate production and distribution of a worldwide network of illegal products and collect the revenue for Kim Jung Il.

In recent years international organizations and sovereign states, particularly the United Nations and the U.S., have passed resolutions, laws, and executive orders to try to undermine the ability of North Korea to operate its global criminal enterprise, but to little avail.

It has been argued that aggressively confronting North Korea for it’s criminal conduct as a mafia-like state, while trying to balance the pursuit of the higher international priorities of eliminating their capabilities to become a nuclear weapons power and supplier of nuclear technology, as well as exporter of sophisticated long range missile systems to dubious regimes around the globe, has created a conundrum for international negotiators, who fear that focusing on North Korean criminal enterprises will undermine the greater priority of securing military stability in one of the worlds most volatile and certainly most isolated and impenetrable nations.

For nearly two decades a series of established negotiating bodies served as a diplomatic forum engaging North Korea with other affected and concerned  nations to provide a diplomatic solution to the threat of nuclear and sophisticated weapons development and proliferation. Although they were repeatedly met with broken promises and slow progress over a myriad of contentious issues, they maintained a dialogue and resulted in channels of verification that many analysts saw as essential in thwarting North Korea’s desires for a nuclear weaponized military capability.

Those diplomatic efforts came to an abrupt halt in 2001, as the Bush adminstration chose a new course in confronting and pressuring the North Korean government.

In April 2005, North Korean Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan warned, “[The United States] should consider the danger that we could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists, that we have the ability to do so.”  Formal diplomatic talks deteriorated since 2001, coming to a complete halt in 2009. Diplomatic negotiations have been dormant  since, the parties engaged in increasingly hostile and aggressive actions towards each other.

By 2011, international law enforcement in scores of nations, key affected countries such as the United States, Japan and South Korea, and International bodies such as the United Nations have repeatedly imposed sanctions, held diplomatic negotiations, and passed laws and mandated resolutions attempting to halt North Korea’s role as a destabilizing force in the region and the world. The DPRK reaction has been to continue its illicit covert schemes and ratchet up an aggressive military posture. But the threat of a rogue state, now possessing nuclear weapons capability as well as an aggressive manufacturer and exporter of sophisticated ballistic missile technology, funded by a vast network of covert production and export of illegal goods, has only expanded.

Overview of Illegal Activities

Among the oldest, key criminal activities controlled by Bureau 39 is the production distribution and laundering of the world’s highest quality counterfeit United States currency. In addition the bureau has managed the production and distribution of opium, heroin, and methamphetamine, billions of counterfeit brand name cigarettes, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, long range ballistic missiles, and the transfer of nuclear technology and expertise to other regimes, and building a nuclear weapons arsenal. Other illicit activities include state sponsored insurance fraud, money laundering, gold smuggling, taxable items smuggled through diplomatic officials, and the trade in protected species such as elephant ivory and Rhinoceros tusks.

On more than 100 occasions, all of these materials have been seized in the possession of North Korean diplomats or shown to have occurred. They are facilitated by government officials, government controlled ships, planes, and international trading companies that are front organizations controlled by North Korean government clandestine offices. They have resulted in the seizure, detention, expulsion, or arrest of North Korean government officials, or their associates, often using diplomatic passports, or these activities have been verified as occurring in at least 106 countries from 1976 through 2011.

Revenues from illicit state sponsored organized crime are, by their very nature, speculative at best. Annual revenues from counterfeit US currency are estimated at between 15 and 100 million US dollars, illegal drug manufacture and sale of heroin, opium, and methamphetamine have carried estimates as high as between 100 million to one billion dollars, counterfeit cigarette manufacture and sale at between 560 and 720 million dollars, and weapons, military components, nuclear technology, and missile sales at as much as 560 million dollars.

In 1976, two years after the creation of  Bureau  39,  North Korean officials began being apprehended around the world for engaging in criminal activity. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark expelled 17 North Korean diplomats, including the entire Norwegian diplomatic staff and two ambassadors, for the sale of drugs, untaxed alcohol and cigarettes.

In North Korea, where virtually all economic activity is controlled by the state, Bureau 39 handles all hard currency transactions, including some legal projects such as export of mushrooms, ginseng and proceeds from the handful of hotels where foreign visitors must stay in Pyongyang.

Travelling mainly under diplomatic passports, their illicit cargo has been seized in dozens of countries at an escalating rate that peaked in the late 1990’s.  Scores of North Korean government  officials have been arrested, detained and expelled, illicit  goods seized

in hundreds of incidents, occurring on every continent except Antartica for the last 35 years. Such criminal activity directly linked to the North Korean government has been documented in at least 57 countries since 1976.

Reports from numerous cases of North Korean state sponsored involvement in production, manufacture and distribution of illicit products began in the mid 1970’s and gained momentum into an overwhelming pattern of a DPRK controlled government criminal conspiracy by the late 1990’s. Arguably the most isolated, secretive, and impenetrable nation in the world, firm evidence has proven difficult to gather and more difficult to prove.

Operating outside the formal government structure, Bureau 39 is an office technically under the structure of the ruling Korean Workers Party Secretariat, which reports to the Central Committee of the Party. Its establishment to operate illicit activities included the purpose of funding the cash starved nation’s military and nuclear development programs.

“ North Korea’s Central Committee Bureau 39 is an active participant in the criminal economy of the region with tentacles extending well beyond Asia,” according to a study published in March 2010 by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College. The PDRK operates what “is essentially criminal sovereignty whereby it organizes its illegitimate activities behind the shield of non-intervention while using the tools of the state to perpetrate these schemes abroad.”

While outside the government structure Bureau 39 fully uses the state apparatus including the diplomatic services, intelligence agencies, military, shipping vessels and aircraft, and an estimated 120 foreign front companies, which themselves are constantly renamed or dissolved and their function replaced by another shell company. These companies are used to covertly launder the proceeds from illicit transactions through foreign bank accounts variously reported to be located in China, Macau, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, and Singapore, according to several studies, including Congressional testimony in March 2011.

Its most powerful entity is the Deasung General Bureau, which controls scores of foreign trading front companies and banks, and reports to the ruling KWP Organization and Guidance Department. They, in turn, report to Bureau 39.

In November 2010 the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Deasung General Bureau stating it “was owned or controlled by Office 39 of the Korean Workers Party. Office 39 is a secretive Branch of the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that provides critical support to North Korean leadership through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds and generating revenue for the leadership.”

The U.S. Department of Treasury Department determined that the Korean Daesong General Trading Corporation was “ facilitating North Korean trafficking in arms and related materiel; procurement of luxury goods; and engagement in certain illicit economic activities, such as money laundering, the counterfeiting of goods and currency, bulk cash smuggling and narcotics trafficking.”

A confidential November 2010 UN Security Council Panel of Experts report, ordered to study North Korean compliance with UN Security Council resolutions responding to North Korean long range ballistic missile and nuclear bomb testing, had banned, among other things, North Korea from the export or import of nuclear technology and any weapons systems. The secret report was leaked in December 2010.

The 47 page document said  “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea maintains a wide network of trade offices that work in close conjunction with its diplomatic missions overseas. These offices are charged with both procurement and developing select trade opportunities of interest to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leadership, including arranging and handling its illicit trade and covert acquisitions,” said the UN confidential report dated 10 November 2010. It continued: “While much of the country’s illicit or covert acquisition activities are handled by these offices, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has also established links with overseas criminal networks to carry out these activities, including the transportation and distribution of illicit and smuggled cargoes. This may also include weapons of mass destruction, sensitive goods and arms and related materiel smuggling.”

All figures and statistics on the DPRK are highly speculative and are often derived from teams of international and US law enforcement and intelligence analysts and technology. Some information comes from North Korean defectors. Other data has been compiled through the seizure of illicit goods in dozens of countries around the world. And still more evidence is provided by anecdotal press reports from various incidents involving law enforcement in nations spanning the globe. The United States and South Korea have taken the most active role in deciphering what transpires in what is arguably the most isolated, secretive, and impenetrable nation in the world. It is reported to use proceeds of the state sponsored criminal syndicate in its nuclear development program.

The North Korean government, through Bureau 39, are increasingly assisted and coordinate with established organized crime syndicates from China, Japan, and Russia, elsewhere in Asia, the United States, and Europe. They have cooperated with non-state terrorist organizations including the IRA, Hezbollah, and insurgencies in Sri Lanka and Nepal. And they have laundered proceeds from illicit activities through banking systems worldwide, including  Macau, China, Switzerland, Austria, Hong Kong, Luxembourg and Singapore, according to US government, United Nations, other governments, and press reports.

In 2011, North Korea again faces severe food shortages. An estimated more than one million people died from famine in the 1990’s. United Nations humanitarian agencies report that millions are suffering from malnutrition in 2011. The government provides minimal services to the population, controls all sectors of the economy and is ranked 179th in the world—dead last—in the Index of Economic Freedom, and regularly ranked as having one of the world’s most egregious human rights records. It has refused to meet long standing international debt obligations, and together with sanctions imposed by the United Nations, finds it difficult to meet minimal standards to trade through normal international financial structures. While publicly appealing for international funds to stem another famine, with a population of only 23.9 million people, North Korea finances and maintains the 4th largest standing army in the world, with more than one million active duty soldiers and 4.6 million in reserve.

Throughout the 1990’s until the US began imposing increasingly harsh sanctions in 2005, Macau served as a hub of laundering criminal proceeds through a series of North Korean front companies and cooperative banks and lax financial security in the gambling Mecca.

Counterfeit U.S. Money

In 1994, officials from a North Korean front company, Zokwang trading company, a direct subsidiary of  Bureau 39,  travelling on diplomatic passports, attempted to deposit 250,000 dollars in fake US dollars in a Macau bank and were arrested and expelled. It was one of many incidents that led to a September 2005 US Treasury Department action naming and freezing the assets of North Korean front companies, Macau banks, and North Korean officials.

Kim Jung Il, in his capacity as head of Bureau 39, first ordered counterfeit 100 dollar bills be produced in the 1970’s through bleaching U.S. one dollar bills. The first counterfeit notes paid for covert terror campaigns against South Korea, such as the bomb explosion on a South Korean commercial  plane killing all 155 civilian passengers  in 1987 and the bombing of senior officials of  South Korea, including President Chun Doo-Hwan in Burma in 1983 that killed four cabinet members and 13 other South Koreans .

The first detection of the North Korean “super note” was by a suspicious bank teller in the Philippines in 1989.

Since then hundreds of millions of dollars of the bills have appeared in dozens of countries around the world. Many North Korean officials have been seized in possession of the bills.

In South Korea counterfeit bills have increased there since North Korean fake U.S. dollars appeared in Hong Kong in early 2006.  Days later China ordered banks to “increase vigilance” for fake U.S. bills.

By the late 1980’s, as the economic crisis in the communist states imploded with the collapse of the Soviet Union, North Korea increased the production and sophistication of its counterfeit dollars.

Since the first counterfeit bills were manufactured, US government officials have documented 19 versions of the “super note”, all they allege are improvements that are produced in the PDRK.  It was in the late 1970’s that North Korea purchased its intaglio printing presses from a Swiss company that sells strictly to governments.

They also bought special ink from the same Swiss company used by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing nearly exactly the same color used by the US . As well, paper with a nearly identical percentage of cotton fiber as that used on U.S. notes is used in North Korean supernotes.

In 2004, a North Korean defector, interviewed by the BBC in South Korea, said.  “We bought the best of everything – the best equipment and the best ink. But we also had the very best people, people who had real expertise and knowledge in the field. ….When government officials or diplomats travelled to south-east Asia they distributed the counterfeit notes mixed in with the real one’s, at a ratio of about 50-50.”

In October that year the FBI seizure of 300,000 dollars in super notes hidden among cargo on a ship originating in China arrived at the Newark, New Jersey port, marked the first evidence of US fake dollars from North Korea smuggled into the United States.

In 2005, the US launched a series of countermeasures against North Korea targeting the counterfeit program, money laundering related to drug trafficking and other illicit activities, including criminal indictments in the U.S. and sanctions against North Korean front companies and foreign banks operating in other countries.

It signified a change in US policy to avoid public condemnation of North Korea’s government operated criminal syndicates for fear it would thwart the larger national interests of negotiating with the DPRK to halt it’s production, distribution, and export of nuclear technology and sophisticated weaponry that was the ongoing focus priority of US foreign policy for more than a decade.

In September of 2005, the US imposed sanctions against North Korean front companies, individuals, and a bank in Macau for laundering counterfeit dollars and other proceeds from North Korean criminal enterprises.

A March 2006 study by the independent Congressional Research Service made a connection between revenues from counterfeit money and other illicit proceeds and the fueling of nuclear proliferation. “The earnings from counterfeiting also could be significant to Pyongyang, and may be used to purchase weapons technology….or even underwrite the DPRK’s nuclear program.”

The next month, April 2006, the U.S State Department made public accusations against the DPRK regime that their illicit trade was operating increasingly with networks of international organized crime. North Korean’s “have been apprehended trafficking in narcotics and engaged in other forms of criminal behavior,” concluded the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report released in March 2006, “including passing counterfeit U.S. currency.”

That same month a Congressional Research Services report on North Korean Counterfeiting stated: ”These have been carried out in league with criminal organizations around the world.”

It added that revenue from criminal syndicates were essential to keeping the regime in power.

The United Nations and both the Bush and Obama administrations have shifted to a more confrontational policy regarding the PDRK,  from negotiations on stopping the North Korean program for nuclear and missile development programs, to increased confrontation over their state sponsored criminal activity and financial sanctions directed to punish the North Koreans for weapons development .

Since President Clinton left office in January 2001 until the present, there has been a marked escalation of hostility between the two sides that has reached a complete breakdown in diplomatic negotiations over the development of the PDRK nuclear and other military program. The U.S. and the United Nations have since created laws, resolutions, and Presidential Executive Orders to mitigate the effectiveness of some of the North Korean international criminal network and its military programs of acquiring nuclear weapons and exporting sophisticated weapons……TO BE CONTINUED

(Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in full or in part without express written permission of the author)

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