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Why Journalism is Better than a Real Job: Excerpts from Sympathy for the Devil

10 Feb

Why Journalism is Better than a Real Job: Excerpts from Sympathy for the Devil

Sympathy for the Devil: A Journalist’s Memoir From Inside Pol Pot’s Cambodia

(Copyright Nate Thayer. No publication or distribution in whole or part without express prior written permission from the author)

Please consider donating to support the publication of Sympathy for the Devil. Details on how to show support are on this blog

By Nate Thayer

By 1994, after more than a decade focused on Cambodia and its war, I only had one more objective: To interview Pol Pot. And then, I told myself, I would leave that wicked country forever.

And the opportunity was tantalizingly possible.

Brewing dissatisfaction within the Khmer Rouge ranks were creating cracks in their armor, opening up potential new means for me to access the core of their inner circle leadership holed up deep in the jungles. Where there was turmoil, there was an increased possibility that 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 likelihood that they would want to play that card. And I was forever scheming to ensure that the vehicle they used to do so would be me.

I was always encouraging, maneuvering for, and poised to take advantage of increased and higher level contacts within their ranks. I approached it as an endless chess game, requiring long-term strategy and patience and an intimate knowledge of one’s opponent. By the mid 1990’s, obstacles were being removed and I was advancing. I knew from viewing their chessboard that I was closing in, however slowly, on their king—Pol Pot. Continue reading

My Sordid Love Affair with Journalism

7 Feb

My Sordid Love Affair with Journalism

Excerpts from Sympathy for the Devil: A Foreign Correspondent Inside Pol Pot’s Cambodia

Copyright Nate Thayer. No republication in whole or part without prior written permission of the author

By Nate Thayer

Journalism and I have a love affair that will never be extinguished.

From the beginning, I was the perfect specimen to be a journalist. It has consumed me, for every minute of every day.

I have always been eager to go anywhere where something of import or fascination is occurring and fraternize with the interesting people who were the protagonists, at any time.

At the beginning, I was willing to die. I had little concern for making money.

The absence of love of money and fear of death are often the crucial makings of a good foreign correspondent.

A dirty little secret is most successful foreign correspondents have either no or dysfunctional families, no other obligations, and few other talents outside of journalism. And few who rely on them, save for their editors. They travel constantly and without advance warning. Properly organized marriages and family are disproportionately rare.

We are not, as a control group, upstanding members of the healthier end of properly organized societies.

Like Communism and God, one has to make a choice between the two. Continue reading

No More Creampuff Journalism: Readers React in Letters to the Editor

1 Feb

No More Creampuff Journalism

Sometime public commentary on the published writings of a journalist can get nasty, sometimes snarky, and sometimes downright witty.

Here, readers react with a series of letters to the editor to an interview I did with Khmer Rouge Prime Minister Khieu Samphan published in the Phnom Penh Post. It wasn’t pretty, but it was witty (mostly).

No More Creampuff Journalism

Phnom Penh Post

Letter to the Editor

No More Creampuff Journalism

Friday, 29 January 1993

I was spending some vacation time in Phnom Penh when I picked up your paper and read the “interview” with Khieu Samphan. What’s going on? This guy is a mass murderer and is single-handedly blocking a U.S. $2 billion international peace effort.

Yet your “reporter” Nate Thayer treats Samphan like he was some kind of elder statesman, asking him what he thinks of the current political situation.

Why didn’t he ask him what it feels like to kill 1,000,000 Cambodians? I’ve read PR handouts that hit harder than this piece of marshmallow.

Do your readers a favor-next time you interview the Khmer Rouge, send a real professional reporter-not a cream puff like this Thayer guy.

Bill Shuller, United States

I responded to that missive with the following: Continue reading

Nate Thayer: periodismo, crowdfunding y autopromo

27 Jan

How to Be Buddy-Buddy With a Guerilla General

27 Jan

How to Be Buddy-Buddy With an Guerilla General

It is always a pleasure when someone has positive things to say about ones work. So thanks to scholars-stage.blogspot.com for their generous comments:

How to Be Buddy-Buddy With an Guerilla General

Posted by T. Greer in 

  Far Eastern Economic Review (2 August 1997)
with Thayer’s investigative work featured as its cover story.Image Credit: Wikimedia

If you read one thing this weekend, this should be it.

Nate Thayer was the Far Eastern and Economic Review‘s man on the ground in Cambodia for most of the 1990s. One of his editors at the Review described his achievements in the following terms:

“Nate broke the story in 1997 that Cambodia’s ex-dictator, Pol Pot, was still alive and had been purged from the Khmer Rouge. He followed up a few months later with the first interview with Pol Pot in 18 years, shedding light on how utopian leftism translated to genocide back in Cambodia…. In an era of instant communication, when scoops are matched in hours and sometimes minutes, the Pol Pot stories went unmatched for months. That’s because Nate had spent years developing contacts within the Khmer Rouge, Thai intelligence, and elsewhere to gain this access” [1]

Mr. Thayer is currently writing a book that tells how he was able to build a network of contacts in an insurgent controlled jungle and gain the trust of the Khmer Rouge’s top leaders. This week he published a meaty excerpt from his truly remarkable story: Continue reading

How the US Dropped the Ball When Offered to Bring Pol Pot to Trial for Mass Murder

24 Jan

 The Final Collapse of the Khmer Rouge: How the US Dropped the Ball When Offered to Bring Pol Pot to Trial for Mass Murder

Excerpts from the unpublished manuscript of “Sympathy for the devil: A Journalists Memoir from Inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”

Copyright Nate Thayer. All Rights Reserved. No reproduction or transmission in whole or part without express written permission from the author

PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING TO SUPPORT THE EFFORT TO ENSURE PUBLICATION OF THIS BOOK AND RELATED HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS ON THE KHMER ROUGE AND CONTEMPORARY CAMBODIAN POLITICAL HISTORY

By Nate Thayer

Immediately after emerging from Pol Pot’s jungle trial on July 25, 1997, I had finally achieved what had been my primary goal for more than a decade: to penetrate the inner sanctum of the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge. Immediately, I began daily contact with an expanding circle of Khmer Rouge operatives and foreign intelligence and military officials who’s secret work had long prevented outsiders from accessing them or the Khmer Rouge guerrillas.

At the periphery was a rogues gallery of characters, many whose identity were never volunteered or ascertained. It was genuinely as if I was living a role as a protagonist in an international thriller, and I loved it. Continue reading

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