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How to Live and Die With Meaning: The Final Hours of my Friend Buddy, Yesterday

4 Nov

How to Live and Die With Dignity and Meaning: The Final Hours of Buddy, who Made the World a Better Place

Sleep with the angels, my good and loving friend. You made me a better man

By Nate Thayer

November 3, 2013

My old friend, Buddy, left us, forever, at 1: 44 Sunday afternoon. He was wrapped in my loving arms. My head was laying on his heart, listening to it final rhythmic, soothing beat, the one I knew so well and had comforted me through more than a decade of my life. He sighed abruptly and inhaled a last, loud, deep breath.

It was the sound of death. I have heard it many times before.

I knew Buddy was gone now, forever.

His eyes remained open staring at mine. He had an expression of pure peace on his face.

Buddy had lived a very good life and Buddy just died a very good death.

I looked up into the beautiful eyes and compassionate heart of the kind doctor Christine.

“He is gone now,” I said.

She took the stethoscope off my beautiful boy’s soft furry chest, and said “Yes, his heart just stopped beating.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and not asleep. He was still alive, and he squeezed my hand when I gently squeezed his paw. The Dr. prepares the final drugs that would cause his heart to stop, and he died.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and not asleep. He was still alive, and he squeezed my hand when I gently squeezed his paw. The Dr. prepares the final drugs that would cause his heart to stop, and he died.

He died painlessly. He was surrounded by love when he went to wherever good dogs go.

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

We said goodbye. Buddy, a few minutes before he went away, forever, today.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was first given a mild sedative to relax him. He did not object. Buddy had asked for help to end his good life with dignity and free from more suffering. Here the Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, and he will die a few minutes later.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was first given a mild sedative to relax him. He did not object. Buddy had asked for help to end his good life with dignity and free from more suffering. Here the Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, and he will die a few minutes later.

Part of me died when Buddy did, but much more of him lives alive in me now, the better part of me, since Buddy graced me with sharing his life with me in 2003, more than ten years ago.

Buddy left us forever today

Buddy left us forever today

The doctor came over and eased him from his suffering. Buddy lived a good, fulfilled life.

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart.

Buddy is gone now. But he lives on forever in the hearts of many

Buddy is gone now. But he lives on forever in the hearts of many

He is no longer suffering. Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. But here his body departs his house. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

The below was written late at night Saturday, in the the hours before Buddy was eased out of this world:

Good Bye, Buddy, My Friend. Thank You for Making Me a Better Man

By Nate Thayer

November 2, 2013

Good bye, Buddy, my friend. Thank you for making me a better man.

My enduring, very important, exceptionally wise, unconditionally loving friend, Buddy, has made me a better man in the ten years and five months we have known each other.

Buddy and I had a long talk today.

He told me that he has had a very worthy, very fulfilling life, full of fun and joy and meaning, has had special friends who he knows have loved him very much, and a full breadth of mostly happy and all meaningful and important adventures and experiences.

He told me he loved me. And I told him I loved him, very much, and I wanted him to know that having him in my life has made me a better man.

Buddy and me, yesterday in the moments before he left us, forever

Buddy and me, yesterday in the moments before he left us, forever

But, today, he told me that the flame of his inextinguishable candle, which has made his life glow and shine on this earth, has been irreversibly, increasingly flickering in recent months, and he asked me if I would be with him to gently blow it out.

The time has come, he said, for his this life to end, and he asked me to help him go gently, with dignity, into the good, permanent night.

He said that he has been in a lot of pain and it has sabotaged his ability to be joyful.

He cannot muster the strength, after a lifetime of his maximally used muscles, to rise after he needs to lay down and rest, which is now most of the time.

He cannot walk without a great deal of pain.

He cannot see the things and people who have brought him delight and pleasure and make his life worthy.

He cannot hear the sounds and voices of pleasure and love that have surrounded him, without pause, for more than a decade now.

He cannot eat much and he is weak.

And he told me that it frightens him to feel the steady march of the erosion of his mind.

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

He asked me to help him to go gently, surrounded by love, from this world to a different, unknown place. Even if that place is no place at all, he said he has had a good life full of meaning and joy.

I told him, as he has known has always been true, I would do anything for him, as best I knew how, that will help make him more satisfied, more content, that would give him more pleasure, that would make his heart warmer than one of the already warmest hearts of any of God’s creatures.

He kissed my face and I kissed his forehead, for a very long time. I promised him I would do my best so he would feel better, soon.

Tomorrow, Sunday November 3, a doctor will come to Buddy’s house and I will be holding him tightly in my loving arms as she eases him into a permanent, good, better, final, irrevocable night, and in my elusive dreams and hopes and fantasies, a sunnier bright new dawn where his heart would only smile and be smiled upon.

I want my friend, Buddy, to know this:

Buddy, you have been one of my oldest, closest friends, ever since you were given a reprieve from death row a decade ago and came to live with me.

Buddy has lived with my brother the last couple of years, where he has a backyard and three young whippersnappers who love him.

Buddy, a few months ago

Buddy, a few months ago

Buddy you have had a good life, and you have made this world a better place because you have lived. And you have made my life much richer by sharing yourself with me.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Glaucoma clouds your eyes and your hearing is worse than mine. You cannot now muster the strength in your well used legs to get up.

I have had to carry you down two flights of stairs so we could amble ever so slowly to the dog park.

The other day, it took us 23 seconds to cross the street. We had to stop and retreat several times because we wouldn’t have made it to the other side before the light turned green.

But you have been, still, very happy, despite your increasing challenges.

These things happen to all of us, Buddy.

I have been so pained to have watched them happening to you now, increasingly diminishing the joy you have had from, and respect you have accorded, simply being alive.

These are some of my thoughts for you, my friend, Buddy, now.

My tears of sadness are clouding my ability, as I write these words, to say goodbye.

But they are exceeded by my memories of the joy and meaning you having been part of my life and this world has brought me:

To my friend, Buddy:

I remember when I first heard of you.

It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a rural church basement.

Someone—a volunteer at a local human society—stood up and said he loved you but you were scheduled to be executed the next day because you did not have a home.

The man said you were a good dog and you just needed someone to love you.


That was in May 2003. I had just gotten home from Iraq. And I needed someone to love me too, Buddy.

Reciprocal love

Reciprocal love

                                                             Buddy minutes before he died yesterday

So I told the man “Stay the execution, the boy has a home.” We hadn’t actually even met yet, Buddy.

I came to the dog prison and you were hiding at the back corner of your jail cell. They opened the door, and you came out reluctantly but with dignity, but looking humiliated and defeated.

They said you had been a bad boy. They were very wrong, Buddy.

They said that you would run and run and run, and that you demanded to live a free life and that the hated Dog Police had arrested you umpteen times and they had had enough.

So they captured you and put you in a cage.

And then, when nobody wanted to give you a home, they sentenced you to death.

You came out of jail and, once out the front door, you broke free from me, because you didn’t know me then Buddy. I would have done the same thing, if I had been you, then.

You ran and ran and ran from the jail. We had to chase you down the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern shore until we captured you again.

And then you came home with me, Buddy. That was 10 years ago last summer.

Buddy at home

Buddy at home

And Scoop, my pal from Bangkok, who we both know had a pea brain but a big heart, and we both know, Buddy, really considered that she was an entitled Princess, was also part of your new family. To be honest and generous, she sometimes was a bitch. She was not very nice to you, Buddy.

But, after all, she was born in a fetid sewer on the streets of Bangkok and now had her own waterfront estate in America. She had had a hard life, too, Buddy, and you understood that.

But you were then, as you are now such a good, tolerant boy. You put up with her snarls and growls—just standing there and letting her have her fit.

And you told me: “It’s OK, Nate. If you have enough room in your heart for me and Scoop, I have enough room in mine for you and Scoop, too.”

You taught me to think of others before myself and that anger and ego and revenge and grudges rarely make anyone happy or improve any situation.

I love you for that, Buddy. You taught me how to be a better man.

Scoop wouldn’t let you sleep on my bed for 6 years, but you would come smooch me each night and then you would sleep blocking the bedroom door. I knew you were trying to protect me, Buddy.

So many nights you would bark at what you suspected was some bad guy, and you were right more than a few times.

Do you remember nearby there was a minimum security juvenile prison and how many times those poor fellows escaped? But the problem was there was only one road out to freedom because we lived on that long peninsula that was surrounded by water. It was nine miles to the nearest store and so, many times, the escaped prisoners would sneak across our farm fields and try to steal my truck to make their getaway.

And you would have none of that, Buddy, would you?

So you barked and barked and ran to the door and back to me until I paid attention and we went outside, together Buddy, with my 30 odd 6 and fired off a few very large, very loud rounds their way. And then they would go away. You were, rightly, very proud of yourself, Buddy.

You sympathized with them, but there were certain red lines for you in life that just could not be crossed. I learned which of those red lines were important to you, Buddy, and made some of them part of my own. Thank you for that, you made me a better man, Buddy.

Love and Death

Love and Death

And you forgave me when, another night, you were convinced something or somebody was outside who shouldn’t be and you barked and smooched me over and over, insisting I pay attention and go see what the ruckus was all about. I stumbled out of bed to the front door with the 45 automatic pistol we kept by our bedside, with no bullet in the chamber but the ammunition clip inserted partially in the weapon.

In truth, I may have been half drunk, Buddy. At the front door, before going outside to investigate, I tried to put a round in the chamber but I couldn’t lock and load because the bullet wouldn’t chamber and remained in the clip.

So, like the idiot I can be sometimes, I tried to load it by pulling the trigger and BOOM, I shot a hole through the wall in the front hallway and that round whizzed right by your head.

I was embarrassed for the accidental discharge and you had the bejesus startled out of you, Buddy.

But you still loved me even when I was an idiot, Buddy. I learned this quality from you, too, Buddy: Unconditional love. You made me a better man.

You were such a happy boy. You loved that big farm. You were free. All 70 acres were yours. The waterfront was yours to frolic, which you did every day. And I remember how happy you were, running full speed round and round and round the swimming pool and the deck. You were celebrating and reveling in just how happy you were to be free.

I learned that being free is very important, from you, Buddy. Thank You for making me a better man.

budddy211

You are such a loving boy, Buddy.

When Scoop died in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, in my bed, you smooched her one last time. Even though she never smooched you, once, in six years.

You saw how devastated I was and you smooched me, too, and you put your paws over my heart and your head on my neck. And you crawled up into my bed and you never left me in the years since.

You taught me the importance of tolerance and empathy, Buddy. You made me a better man.

That was the first night you slept all night in my bed, and you did every night afterwards. You were understanding, forgiving, and loyal, Buddy. I learned that from you, too, Buddy. Thank you for making me a better man.

Buddy and his pal, Lido

Buddy and his pal, Lido

And you smooched me and took care of me, Buddy, when I was sick for a very long time. You would curl up by me every night to protect me, Buddy and you would flow towards more loving when I would ebb towards sicker. I know it wasn’t much fun for you then, Buddy, but you always thought empathy towards others was more important than your own pleasure, in times when others needed you, Buddy.

I learned from you the importance of this, too, Buddy. You made me a better man.

Buddy's friend, Lido, comes over to say goodbye to his constant, loving tolerant companion, one final time

Buddy’s friend, Lido, comes over to say goodbye to his constant, loving tolerant companion, one final time

I remember the night when the barn caught fire. You barked and barked and ran up and smooched me and ran back to the front door and back again to my bed, until I woke up and saw what the commotion was all about. You were so proud of yourself. As you should have been, even though the barn burned down.

You believed that you can not try and certainly fail, or you can try and you may succeed or fail. For you, Buddy, it is more important to try and fail than not try at all. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You were the perfect guard dog, and your unqualified loyalty to those you love and those who loved you never wavered. You are the perfect friend, Buddy.

I love you Buddy and I know you love me. We love each other with all our hearts.

I want you to know that those hated Dog Police Nazi’s who sentenced you to die ten years ago because they said you were a bad dog were wrong, Buddy. You are a very good dog. The world is a better place because you lived.

Then I got sick again, Buddy, and you were such a loving boy. Every night, curling next to me and kissing and licking me. You would wait there, by my side with me, till the morning when I woke, making sure I was OK, before you went out for your long stroll and swim and frolicked, just thankful to be blessed to be alive, to celebrate your freedom. Every day.

You knew what freedom was because you had experienced it denied to you, Buddy. I learned how important it is to remember that, Buddy, from you. Thank you for making me a better man.

I love you Buddy.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Your eyes are clouded from Glaucoma.

You still are such a tolerant fellow, Buddy, such a very loving, very, very good boy.

Now, you let Lamont annoy you and you understand. You let him play his childish puppy games and you even let him eat your food.

And, now, Lamont lies next to you staring up at you, wondering how he can be the man you are.

Buddylamont1111

Lamont misses his Uncle Buddy

Lamont misses his Uncle Buddy

You have shown others a code to live by, by your example, Buddy.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

I learned that when you are saying the right thing, believing the right thing, behaving the right way, it doesn’t matter how different people may interpret it. That these are essentials of a well-spent life compass, a code to live by.

I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You have shown others how to live a worthy life of equal humility and consequence by your example.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

These are just some of the many ways you have made me a better person than I was before you blessed me with sharing your life with me, Buddy.

Now, you are still as wise but you are more fragile, Buddy. Now, when you come and sleep next to me it is the time for me to show you how important you have been in my life.

I love you Buddy. Thanks for being my friend. I will miss you very much Buddy.

But I will celebrate your life and how lucky I have been to have you share your wisdom and character with me, because you deserve to be remembered with a smile and warm feeling in my heart.

Because, while you are a better man than I, Buddy, you have made me a better man than I was before I was lucky to have you share your very important, special self with me.

Buddy was eased into the gentle night at this moment

Buddy was eased into the gentle night at this moment

Goodbye, my friend.

I love you now and I will love you forever, Buddy.

I will be holding you very closely, tightly in my arms full of love, as you go gently away from me and from all those who have been lucky to have crossed your path, tomorrow, forever.

But, I want you to have no doubt of this: you will remain alive forever.

You represent the better part of who I am today.

Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. He is no longer suffering. But here his body departs his house for a final time. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. He is no longer suffering. But here his body departs his house for a final time. His ashes will come back to me and I will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Sleep With the Angels, Buddy: Photographing the Death of My Friend

3 Nov
Buddy left us forever today

Buddy left us forever today

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

Preparing Buddy to go to a better place. He was sedated and sleep alive, but he was near sleeping. The Dr. prepares the drugs that will cause his heart to stop, when he will die.

My old friend, Buddy, left us, forever, this afternoon. Below, I am listening to Buddy’s heart stop beating. He took a last,deep gasp, an inhale of breath. It was the sound of death. I have heard it many times before. I knew Buddy was gone. He lived a good life and died a good death.

buddy32He died painlessly. He was surrounded by love when he went to wherever good dogs go.

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

Buddy, surrounded by love from his family

We said goodbye. Buddy, a few minutes before he went away, forever, today.

The doctor released him from his suffering

The doctor released him from his suffering

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

Buddy gets the final, loving death drug that stops his heart

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

My friend, Buddy, a few weeks ago

The doctor came over and eased him from his suffering. Buddy lived a good, fulfilled life.

buddy2He is no longer suffering. Buddy had departed a few minutes earlier. But here his body departs his house. His ashes will come back to me and I  will keep them, forever, in a special place, with me always

Written the evening before Buddy was eased out of this world:

Good Bye, Buddy, My Friend. Thank You for Making Me a Better Man

By Nate Thayer

November 2, 2013

Good bye, Buddy, my friend. Thank you for making me a better man.

My enduring, very important, exceptionally wise, unconditionally loving friend, Buddy, has made me a better man in the ten years and five months we have known each other.

Buddy and I had a long talk today.

He told me that he has had a very worthy, very fulfilling life, full of fun and joy and meaning, has had special friends who he knows have loved him very much, and a full breadth of mostly happy and all meaningful and important adventures and experiences.

He told me he loved me. And I told him I loved him, very much, and I wanted him to know that having him in my life has made me a better man.

But, today, he told me that the flame of his inextinguishable candle, which has made his life glow and shine on this earth, has been irreversibly, increasingly flickering in recent months, and he asked me if I would be with him to gently blow it out.

The time has come, he said, for his this life to end, and he asked me to help him go gently, with dignity, into the good, permanent night.

He said that he has been in a lot of pain and it has sabotaged his ability to be joyful.

He cannot muster the strength, after a lifetime of his maximally used muscles, to rise after he needs to lay down and rest, which is now most of the time.

He cannot walk without a great deal of pain.

He cannot see the things and people who have brought him delight and pleasure and make his life worthy.

He cannot hear the sounds and voices of pleasure and love that have surrounded him, without pause, for more than a decade now.

He cannot eat much and he is weak.

And he told me that it frightens him to feel the steady march of the erosion of his mind.

He asked me to help him to go gently, surrounded by love, from this world to a different, unknown place. Even if that place is no place at all, he said he has had a good life full of meaning and joy.

I told him, as he has known has always been true, I would do anything for him, as best I knew how, that will help make him more satisfied, more content, that would give him more pleasure, that would make his heart warmer than one of the already warmest hearts of any of God’s creatures.

He kissed my face and I kissed his forehead, for a very long time. I promised him I would do my best so he would feel better, soon.

Tomorrow, Sunday November 3, a doctor will come to Buddy’s house and I will be holding him tightly in my loving arms as she eases him into a permanent, good, better, final, irrevocable night, and in my elusive dreams and hopes and fantasies, a sunnier bright new dawn where his heart would only smile and be smiled upon.

I want my friend, Buddy, to know this:

Buddy, you have been one of my oldest, closest friends, ever since you were given a reprieve from death row a decade ago and came to live with me.

Buddy has lived with my brother the last couple of years, where he has a backyard and three young whippersnappers who love him.

Buddy you have had a good life, and you have made this world a better place because you have lived. And you have made my life much richer by sharing yourself with me.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Glaucoma clouds your eyes and your hearing is worse than mine. You cannot now muster the strength in your well used legs to get up.

I have had to carry you down two flights of stairs so we could amble ever so slowly to the dog park.

The other day, it took us 23 seconds to cross the street. We had to stop and retreat several times because we wouldn’t have made it to the other side before the light turned green.

But you have been, still, very happy, despite your increasing challenges.

These things happen to all of us, Buddy.

I have been so pained to have watched them happening to you now, increasingly diminishing the joy you have had from, and respect you have accorded, simply being alive.

These are some of my thoughts for you, my friend, Buddy, now.

My tears of sadness are clouding my ability, as I write these words, to say goodbye.

But they are exceeded by my memories of the joy and meaning you having been part of my life and this world has brought me:

To my friend, Buddy:

I remember when I first heard of you.

It was at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a rural church basement.

Someone—a volunteer at a local human society—stood up and said he loved you but you were scheduled to be executed the next day because you did not have a home.

The man said you were a good dog and you just needed someone to love you.
That was in May 2003. I had just gotten home from Iraq. And I needed someone to love me too, Buddy.

So I told the man “Stay the execution, the boy has a home.” We hadn’t actually even met yet, Buddy.

I came to the dog prison and you were hiding at the back corner of your jail cell. They opened the door, and you came out reluctantly but with dignity, but looking humiliated and defeated.

They said you had been a bad boy. They were very wrong, Buddy.

They said that you would run and run and run, and that you demanded to live a free life and that the hated Dog Police had arrested you umpteen times and they had had enough.

So they captured you and put you in a cage.

And then, when nobody wanted to give you a home, they sentenced you to death.

You came out of jail and, once out the front door, you broke free from me, because you didn’t know me then Buddy. I would have done the same thing, if I had been you, then.

You ran and ran and ran from the jail. We had to chase you down the rural roads of Maryland’s Eastern shore until we captured you again.

And then you came home with me, Buddy. That was 10 years ago last summer.

And Scoop, my pal from Bangkok, who we both know had a pea brain but a big heart, and we both know, Buddy, really considered that she was an entitled Princess, was also part of your new family. To be honest and generous, she sometimes was a bitch. She was not very nice to you, Buddy.

But, after all, she was born in a fetid sewer on the streets of Bangkok and now had her own waterfront estate in America. She had had a hard life, too, Buddy, and you understood that.

But you were then, as you are now such a good, tolerant boy. You put up with her snarls and growls—just standing there and letting her have her fit.

And you told me: “It’s OK, Nate. If you have enough room in your heart for me and Scoop, I have enough room in mine for you and Scoop, too.”

You taught me to think of others before myself and that anger and ego and revenge and grudges rarely make anyone happy or improve any situation.

I love you for that, Buddy. You taught me how to be a better man.

Scoop wouldn’t let you sleep on my bed for 6 years, but you would come smooch me each night and then you would sleep blocking the bedroom door. I knew you were trying to protect me, Buddy.

So many nights you would bark at what you suspected was some bad guy, and you were right more than a few times.

Do you remember nearby there was a minimum security juvenile prison and how many times those poor fellows escaped? But the problem was there was only one road out to freedom because we lived on that long peninsula that was surrounded by water. It was nine miles to the nearest store and so, many times, the escaped prisoners would sneak across our farm fields and try to steal my truck to make their getaway.

And you would have none of that, Buddy, would you?

So you barked and barked and ran to the door and back to me until I paid attention and we went outside, together Buddy, with my 30 odd 6 and fired off a few very large, very loud rounds their way. And then they would go away. You were, rightly, very proud of yourself, Buddy.

You sympathized with them, but there were certain red lines for you in life that just could not be crossed. I learned which of those red lines were important to you, Buddy, and made some of them part of my own. Thank you for that, you made me a better man, Buddy.

And you forgave me when, another night, you were convinced something or somebody was outside who shouldn’t be and you barked and smooched me over and over, insisting I pay attention and go see what the ruckus was all about. I stumbled out of bed to the front door with the 45 automatic pistol we kept by our bedside, with no bullet in the chamber but the ammunition clip inserted partially in the weapon.

In truth, I may have been half drunk, Buddy. At the front door, before going outside to investigate, I tried to put a round in the chamber but I couldn’t lock and load because the bullet wouldn’t chamber and remained in the clip.

So, like the idiot I can be sometimes, I tried to load it by pulling the trigger and BOOM, I shot a hole through the wall in the front hallway and that round whizzed right by your head.

I was embarrassed for the accidental discharge and you had the bejesus startled out of you, Buddy.

But you still loved me even when I was an idiot, Buddy. I learned this quality from you, too, Buddy: Unconditional love. You made me a better man.

You were such a happy boy. You loved that big farm. You were free. All 70 acres were yours. The waterfront was yours to frolic, which you did every day. And I remember how happy you were, running full speed round and round and round the swimming pool and the deck. You were celebrating and reveling in just how happy you were to be free.

I learned that being free is very important, from you, Buddy. Thank You for making me a better man.

You are such a loving boy, Buddy.

When Scoop died in my arms, her head resting on my shoulder, in my bed, you smooched her one last time. Even though she never smooched you, once, in six years.

You saw how devastated I was and you smooched me, too, and you put your paws over my heart and your head on my neck. And you crawled up into my bed and you never left me in the years since.

You taught me the importance of tolerance and empathy, Buddy. You made me a better man.

That was the first night you slept all night in my bed, and you did every night afterwards. You were understanding, forgiving, and loyal, Buddy. I learned that from you, too, Buddy. Thank you for making me a better man.

And you smooched me and took care of me, Buddy, when I was sick for a very long time. You would curl up by me every night to protect me, Buddy and you would flow towards more loving when I would ebb towards sicker. I know it wasn’t much fun for you then, Buddy, but you always thought empathy towards others was more important than your own pleasure, in times when others needed you, Buddy.

I learned from you the importance of this, too, Buddy. You made me a better man.

I remember the night when the barn caught fire. You barked and barked and ran up and smooched me and ran back to the front door and back again to my bed, until I woke up and saw what the commotion was all about. You were so proud of yourself. As you should have been, even though the barn burned down.

You believed that you can not try and certainly fail, or you can try and you may succeed or fail. For you, Buddy, it is more important to try and fail than not try at all. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

You were the perfect guard dog, and your unqualified loyalty to those you love and those who loved you never wavered. You are the perfect friend, Buddy.

I love you Buddy and I know you love me. We love each other with all our hearts.

I want you to know that those hated Dog Police Nazi’s who sentenced you to die ten years ago because they said you were a bad dog were wrong, Buddy. You are a very good dog. The world is a better place because you lived.

Then I got sick again, Buddy, and you were such a loving boy. Every night, curling next to me and kissing and licking me. You would wait there, by my side with me, till the morning when I woke, making sure I was OK, before you went out for your long stroll and swim and frolicked, just thankful to be blessed to be alive, to celebrate your freedom. Every day.

You knew what freedom was because you had experienced it denied to you, Buddy. I learned how important it is to remember that, Buddy, from you. Thank you for making me a better man.

I love you Buddy.

You are an older guy, now, Buddy. Your eyes are clouded from Glaucoma.

You still are such a tolerant fellow, Buddy, such a very loving, very, very good boy.

Now, you let Lamont annoy you and you understand. You let him play his childish puppy games and you even let him eat your food.

And, now, Lamont lies next to you staring up at you, wondering how he can be the man you are.

You have shown others a code to live by, by your example, Buddy.

I am very happy and proud to tell the world what a beautiful boy you are, Buddy. It doesn’t matter to me if they can’t understand.

I learned that when you are saying the right thing, believing the right thing, behaving the right way, it doesn’t matter how different people may interpret it. I learned that from you, Buddy. You made me a better man.

These are just some of the many ways you have made me a better person than I was before you blessed me with sharing your life with me, Buddy.

Now, you are still as wise but you are more fragile, Buddy. Now, when you come and sleep next to me it is the time for me to show you how important you have been in my life.

I love you Buddy. Thanks for being my friend. I will miss you very much Buddy.

But I will celebrate your life and how lucky I have been to have you share your wisdom and character with me, because you deserve to be remembered with a smile and warm feeling in my heart.

Because, while you are a better man than I, Buddy, you have made me a better man than I was before I was lucky to have you share your very important, special self with me.

Goodbye, my friend.

I love you now and I will love you forever, Buddy.

I will be holding you very closely, tightly in my arms full of love, as you go gently away from me and from all those who have been lucky to have crossed your path, tomorrow, forever.

But, I want you to have no doubt of this: you will remain alive forever.

You represent the better part of who I am today.

Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan

23 Oct

Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan

By Nate Thayer

October  23, 2013

I was invited to speak in a couple of weeks at a conference on the new-fangled world of the tatters of credible journalism at Columbia University. The topic: how to come up with a viable business model for the new world of digital journalism.

First, they invited me for the three-day conference in NYC. I said: “Sure, I assume all expenses are paid.” They said yes. Then, it turns out, that doesn’t include eating food and transport from the train station to the hotel or between the conference and the hotel in NYC for three days, which, anyone who knows NYC, knows easily can run several hundred bucks at hotels and restaurants and taxi cabs etc. I then retracted my acceptance to speak at said conference. They then came back to me and said they would make an exception, and pay all my actual expenses. We are not talking any speaking or appearance fees.

We have been corresponding on the necessary details.

From today:

They asked for a bio and a pic for their publicity efforts: I sent them the standard self promoting, more than slightly embarrassing pabulum:

“Hi K,

Here is a brief bio and attached pic. You can feel free to edit the bio with abandon. It is longer than you will want, I am sure:

Nate Thayer is an investigative journalist based in Washington D.C. he spent 25 years as a foreign correspondent, much of that based in Asia with the Far Eastern Economic Review, and currently specializes on North Korea. His work has been published in several hundred media outlets worldwide, and he has been on staff or long-term contract with a number of media organizations, including the Associated Press, the Phnom Penh Post, Agence France Press, Soldier of Fortune magazine, the Washington Post, and Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Thayer’s reporting has earned him “The World Press Award’, the “British Press Awards Scoop of the Year Award”, and the “Francis Frost Wood Award for Courage in Journalism”, given to a journalist “judged to best exemplify physical or moral courage in the practice of his or her craft.”

He was the recipient of the “Center for Public Integrity’s International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) “Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting of the Year.” Upon awarding Thayer the ICIJ Award, the judges noted: : “He illuminated a page of history that would have been lost to the world had he not spent years in the Cambodian jungle, in a truly extraordinary quest for first-hand knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and their murderous leader. His investigations of the Cambodia political world required not only great risk and physical hardship but also mastery of an ever-changing cast of Political faction characters.”

Thayer was given a prestigious “Peabody Award”, broadcast journalism’s highest honor, and was the first person in 57 years to turn it down because of unethical practices of the American broadcast industry, saying: “I in no way want my name associated with such egregious violations of journalistic and professional ethics.”

Thayer is also the recipient of “The Overseas Press Club of America Award” and the “Asian Society of Publishers and Editors Award for Excellence in Reporting.”

Thayer was also honored with the Johns Hopkins SAIS-Novartis Award for Excellence in International Reporting.”

He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by The Wall Street Journal.

He was a visiting scholar at the Paul H Nitze School of Advance International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


He can be contacted at thayernate0007@gmail.com or 443 205 9162″

The nice woman who is organizing said conference replied: “Thanks Nate, this is great. Whittled down to a paragraph, but tried to include the main highlights. Could you please let me know what your “title” is? I.E. what should we put in the program?

Thanks so much,
K”

I replied: “Hi K,

Freelance Investigative Journalist or Freelance Journalist or some such thing. Starving Investigative Freelance Journalist, Formerly Quite Financially Well Off Investigative Journalist Now Living Below the Poverty Line. Pissed Off Investigative Freelance Journalist, Freelance Investigative Journalist Who is Convinced Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington are Satan, Freelance Journalist Deeply Disturbed by How Few People Appear to get That Quality Journalism is Dead”…..feel free to play around with any related variations…..”

Lunching With Mass Murderers: Khmer Rouge leaders explain why they slaughtered their own people, and why it was, really, for the best: Excerpts from “Sympathy for the Devil” By Nate Thayer

12 Oct

Lunching With Mass Murderers: Top Khmer Rouge leaders explain, in their own words, why they killed 1.8 million people, why it was not their fault, and really for the best.

Excerpts from 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 republication, quotation from, copying or dissemination in whole or in part without prior written permission from Author)

During the Chinese Cultural Revolution style “People’s Tribunal” held to denounce  Pol Pot in the jungles of Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia in July 1997, a middle age man dressed in a pea green military uniform, hobbled up on his amputated leg and one crutch, and stood in front of the gathered crowd.

Bang Man was very angry, very confused, very sad and very sincere.

Pol Pot sat only a few feet away, cheeks shaking trying to maintain his composure, in a simple metal folding chair. He stared off into the distance avoiding eye contact with anyone, including me who circled freely around him taking close up portraits inches from the face of the mass murderer who had not been seen in the 18 years since he was driven from power, leaving behind the corpses of 1.8 million of his countrymen. Next to Pol Pot, sat three manacled, surly Pol Pot military loyalist comrades, under arrest, their fate certain.

Pol Pot was not being condemned for genocide, mass murder, or crimes against humanity. He was charged with “crimes against the revolution.”

Bang Men introduced himself as “a representative of the people.” He spoke with sincerity and passion, his voice strong, as he stood at the crude podium under an aluminum roof that served as a warehouse for artillery and other weapons of war. On the dirt jungle floor, a microphone was  hooked up to a car battery the crude sound broadcast over loudspeakers tied to the cut forest trees that served to hold up the roof of the open air structure where several hundred peasants and cadre squatted in the dirt, their lives work collapsing, after thirty years at war and in the jungle. Their once infallible leader was being denounced:

“The people and masses of Anlong  Veng, tens of thousands of people, have abandoned their land, homes, their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren for close to 20 years, with the aim of solving the problem of the nation, the race….not thinking of the danger, their lives. This struggle is an exceedingly hard and difficult struggle, which has never been encountered before in the history of our nation. In the spirit of loving the nation, of loving the race, we have striven to achieve and express this most lofty and supreme heroism, to continue the struggle. But finally, the result was not in keeping with most of our wishes, our intentions. We have been separated and lost tens of thousands, millions, and then in the period of 1996-1997, we encountered the most terrible, the most barbarous incident of Pol Pot, who continually had us study about the view, the stance, fighting, enduring to fight, the stance becoming even stronger, the situation becoming ever more difficult. They saw enemies everywhere, saw them as rotten flesh, swollen flesh, enemies surrounding them, enemies in front, enemies behind, enemies to the north, enemies to the south, enemies to the west, enemies to the east, enemies in all eight directions, enemies coming from all nine directions, around them, closing in, with no place to breathe…Pol Pot wanted to further strengthen our stance. Strengthen over and over and over, including measures to successfully kill and purge our own ranks, including strugglers in the movement of the same rank….Looking backward, Cambodia was dissolving into nothing…fighting continually and Cambodia steadily dissolving.”

Nuon Chea, the chief political ideologue of the Khmer Rouge and number 2 in  rank behind Pol Pot,  was a rural peasant from Battambang province in western Cambodia who was educated in Thailand after the Thai’s temporarily invaded and annexed that part of Cambodia. He graduated from the prestigious Thammassat University in Bangkok and joined the leftist Thai Democratic Youth League in 1946 and the Thai Communist party in 1950. That same year he joined the Vietnamese controlled Indochinese Communist Party.

Ieng Sary, the third ranking leader of the Khmer Rouge, was born in former Cambodian territory annexed by Vietnam for more than a century in the Mekong delta of Vietnam to a Chinese immigrant to Vietnam and an ethnic Khmer citizen of Vietnam of middle to upper class origins. He received his higher education in France and joined the French Communist Party during his studies there.

Ta Mok, the top military field commander of the Khmer Rouge, was an uneducated peasant whose family ran a lumber mill in rural Cambodia. He received Buddhist religious training to be a monk, and joined the anti-colonial Democratic Party in 1946 and later the anti-French underground armed nationalist movement, the Khmer Issaraks.

The other leaders were mainly all dead.

In several interviews with Ta Mok in 1997 and 1998, until the days before he was arrested when the final remnants of the Khmer Rouge collapsed, he expounded in straightforward detail to me about the politics and theory the fueled the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Mok was a military man who, while ranked number five in the party hierarchy, had no formal schooling, and his marginally more sophisticated comrades at the core of power despised and dismissed him, cringing when he spoke of politics. But in Cambodia, whoever has the guns has the power, and Mok had recently overthrown Pol Pot in a day’s long duel of life and death after Pol Pot had ordered him killed. Mok acknowledged to me that “hundreds of thousands died. Hundreds of thousands yes. Not millions like the Americans say.” He contended that the “Communist Party had sucked the blood of the people” and that “Pol pot had clearly committed crimes against  humanity.” But Mok was clear in parsing the distinctions of who was legitimately killed. All the thousandshe ordered murdered deserved their fate. “I joined the movement when I was 16. I have no theoretical ideology. My ideology is patriotism. Before I joined the Communist Party, but I had no idea what communism was!” he said, throwing his arms in the air and chuckling. “They said the Party was a patriotic one. That is why I joined the party. Later I found out that the Communist Party was sucking the blood of the people.”

He added that his one regret was working with Pol Pot “whose hands are soiled with blood….each of us has our own lessons to learn from ourselves. Ours is Pol Pot.”

But there was a reason Mok had earned the nickname “the Butcher.” ‘I never killed Khmers,” he said. “ Vietnamese, yes.” When I asked about the purges of other of his senior KR cadre comrades he was known to have been dispatched to kill, Mok claimed that thousands of ethnic Khmer were in fact agents of Vietnam.

“Sao Phim. He was Vietnamese,” Ta Mok said bluntly, referring to the former number four in the Standing Committee of the CPK who headed the eastern zone military on the Vietnamese border. The tens of thousands of ethnic Khmers Ta Mok massacred when he was the top battlefield commander who launched military attacks on the eastern zone forces of the Khmer Rouge were not, in his mind, Cambodians, and therefore their murder was not only justified, but necessary. “They were Vietnamese,” he said dismissively. There is a saying in Cambodian “Kluen Khmer, Kbal Yuon.” It means “To have a Khmer body but the mind of a Vietnamese.” Mok was deeply implicated in the purges of thousands of civilians and cadre during the KR rule. Including his own deputy who he sent to his death at Tuol Sleng. “He was Vietnamese,” Mok told me. Three westerners who ventured to close to his control zone in the months before my visits in 1997 and 1998, were captured and executed—two European humanitarian workers sightseeing near ancient temples and a British former military officer who was volunteering training Cambodians how to unearth buried landmines.

Son Sen was born in South Vietnam, studied in Phnom Penh and Paris, and returned to teach at the prestigious secondary school of Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh. Son Sen, during the Khmer Rouge period was directly in charge—as Army Commander and chief of National Security—for the activities of the CPK secret police, including overseeing S-21, the Tuol Sleng torture and extermination  center. He, his wife and 18 of his family members were killed in an orgy of violence on the orders of Pol Pot in June of 1997—an event that sparked the internal power struggle at the core leadership of the Khmer Rouge which Pol Pot lost and Ta Mok won.

Khieu Samphan was born in the eastern province of Svay Rieng and educated in Paris, receiving a Doctorate of Economics. He returned to Cambodia to be elected to the National Assembly, and was widely idolized for his reputation as incorruptible while in parliament under the regime of Norodom Sihanouk. He served briefly as Sihanouk’s minister of commerce, before fleeing to the jungle in 1967 after public threats by Sihanouk. While serving as the public face of the Khmer Rouge, he was never a member of the CPK most powerful body, the Standing Committee. He never revealed his affiliation with the CPK.

In a February 1998 meeting in the jungles of Anlong Veng, I sat at a roundtable luncheon over fresh fish and warm soda in Ta Mok’s house. The lunch guests hosted for three hours by Ta Mok included Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and several other senior Khmer Rouge cadres. I was allowed to film and record the entire event. Mok had by then captured Pol Pot and controlled the army and therefore the power. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan hated Mok with a passion, considering him a competent military commander but wholly ignorant of political theory and a loud and course peasant soldier.

Ta Mok began to recite the names and ranks of the Party leaders who had been executed. “ That is right, a (“a” is a pejorative Khmer term meaning ”the contemptible’) Nhim was what number? A-Chong was what number?”, referring to their ranks in the Standing Committee of the CPK. “ A-Phong was what number? Why do I want to count them all? Because I want to relate clearly that all of them were what?” Ta Mok was naming top party leaders arrested, tortured, and executed at Tuol Sleng. “ From number One Pol Pot to all of those I mentioned, some of them were Yuon ( a derogatory term for Vietnamese). Was Pol Pot Yuon or not? I don’t know, it is not clear. But So Phim is clear. He was Yuon. From the east. He was Yuon through and through, a pure Yuon. Chong was Yuon. He was a person of the Yuon.”

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were seething sitting to my right with Ta Mok on my left. Their loyalties were still with Pol Pot and they despised Ta Mok. They looked like they were about to explode. Revealing Party secrets is an offensive that had always meant certain death, and to do so in front of an American was unfathomable to them. I knew they had already concluded I was a CIA agent, but considered me a useful back channel.

Cor Bun Heng, a young intellectual, asked “Chong was from where?”

Ta Mok replied: “Koh Kong. Or CIA. It is the same.”

Mok then laughed and pointed his finger at me. “CIA! Have you heard of them?” while laughing menacingly, grinning broadly and gazing his narrow eyes locked on mine, laughing louder and more. I had been told earlier by Khmer Rouge confidantes that Mok was convinced I was an agent of the CIA. I said nothing. “So within the leadership, there were Yuon and CIA. And there were Americans. Have you heard of them?”  , he asked me again, perhaps trying to be both funny and menacing.

Mok laughed again. “ A-Thuch, what was his original name?” laughing and cackling, clearly enjoying making the whole table very uncomfortable for very different reasons.

Khieu Samphan, who was decidedly not laughing and decidedly annoyed, answered: “Koy Thuon.”

“Koy Thuon was an American,” Mok declared.” This is what I want to explain to you.“ Mok continued. “It was like this. It was a mess. And it is this that causes the talk of two million or three million killed. Because internally things weren’t good, they carried on killings. The Yuon group wanted to kill the American group. The American group wanted to kill the Yuon group and kill the Khmers. Internally, there were these three, three parties: The American party, the Yuon party, and the Khmer party. I want to tell you this just honestly, straightforwardly.”

It was the first time Nuon Chea had ever granted an interview in the 50 years since he joined the revolution. And he wasn’t happy. Mok presided and was periodically sarcastic, animated, and demeaning towards his senior colleagues, whose expressions seethed at Mok’s flippant and derogatory remarks.

Mok put down Khieu Samphan, who was seated next to him, saying: “Pol Pot, it is like the Americans say about Khieu Samphan, that he is only a figurehead. Because where are the forces? Who is Cambodia? I am not saying this to boast. Ask the Army. Pol Pot had only himself. The forces were the Southwest,” he said referring to the zone he ruled as military commander during the Khmer Rouge years in power.

I asked Nuon Chea about the alleged coup attempts against Pol Pot and Nuon Chea between 1975 and 1979. “ During the three years holding power, it was the Yuon and the henchmen of the Yuon, “ Nuon Chea replied through clenched teeth.

“What happened?” I asked.

“This is a historical matter of long past, long ago. There were assassination attempts, there were attempts to poison, from what I could gather,” Nuon Chea replied. “But most of it, some places, it is hard for me to recall. I don’t know what Ta would say,” he continued trying to avoid an answer. “ This I am telling you frankly,” Nuon says. “They accuse us.”

Ta Mok then interrupts, offering specific and never before revealed details to the extreme consternation of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. “Okay, I’d like to tell you. This matter isn’t something that is clear and transparent, it is very difficult, because internally who was it who was in charge? Who was responsible? It was Pol pot who was responsible. There wasn’t anyone else who was number one but Pol Pot. Pol Pot was number One.”

Then Mok turns to Nuon Chea, smirks, his eyes twinkling and his lips pursed in a mixture of menace and mockery, and says ”Brother, you were number two, right?’

Nuon Chea glares, pauses, and answers curtly, “Yes.”

“Yes, you were number two,” Mok repeats, “ Ieng Sary was number three. So Phim was number four. And Ta Mok was only number five. And A-Nhim was what number?” Mok asks Nuon Chea, in a clear attempt to goad and implicate him.

“I don’t know what number, Ta,’ Nuon Chea says.

“It is the number two individual who knows the most,” Mok continued, laughing and mocking Nuon Chea,” But I didn’t understand much. I just looked from the outside. I observed. I just want to express that opinion.”

Although popularly labeled as Communists, evidence from previously unpublished interviews with all the top leadership of the Khmer Rouge show the Khmer Rouge movement and its murderous policies was founded on an amalgam of ideologies and homegrown political theory uniquely Cambodian.

The handful of core leaders who comprised the all-powerful apparatus of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea came from disparate backgrounds, widely divergent political influences, and  training, or absence of training, that clearly suggest a CPK structure of organized power based on no external models. Their policies and tactics drew firmly from the mainstream of their Cambodian historical and contemporary political predecessors  with influences from anti-colonialist movements, extreme nationalism, previous political rulers who assumed the role of all powerful God Kings, and, almost tangentially, various non-Cambodian communist parties in Europe and Asia in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In fact it is more accurate that they had no single central organization or ideology when they seized power, but rather were dominated by a unique amalgam of loosely allied regional fiefdoms with little uniform central ideology, coordination or control. In effect, in April 1975, six separate armies, long void of a unified command leadership converged on Phnom Penh, simultaneously overthrowing the U.S. installed Lon Nol government. These loosely coordinated regional armed  Khmer Rouge factions then struggled against each other for dominance within the framework of the CPK to assert influence and control.

Once in titular power, there was a stark absence of predetermined strategy or national leadership that implemented what evolved into an orgy of internal power struggles and shocking comfort level with employing tactics of crimes against humanity as routine policy, and a bumbling, delusional, ill prepared and wholly unskilled and incapable cadre of government leaders  and technicians that was predestined to implode in disaster, surrendering in defeat to their own incompetence and failed policies after three years, eight months and 20 days in power.

It is useful to introduce a historical overview of the Khmer Rouge movement and its leadership prior to them seizing power on April 17, 1975.

Cambodia in the 1960’s offered few conditions that traditionally provided fuel to ignite and sustain a communist movement. It had virtually no industrial base or manufacturing sector from which to recruit a working class base of an exploited labor force by those who owned the means of production. Almost all its peasants—85% of the population—owned their own land, eliminating the opportunity to recruit popular support based on the exploitation of tenant farmers by a landlord class. The country was rich in natural resources, with abundant rice crops and some of the most productive fishing waterways in the world. It was a leading exporter of rice until after the war that engulfed the country in 1970. The population was very small compared to the productive land mass and there was virtually no malnutrition or starvation. Cambodia was at peace, despite being surrounded by the regional Indochinese wars that raged on all its borders. Despite its many failings, throughout the mid-20th century, the Cambodian government under royal control, led by Norodom Sihanouk, maintained delicate political neutrality, deftly juggling outside pressures of alliances during the superpower struggles that rendered much of the world allied with one of the three great powers of the era. As a result there were no significant Cambodian proxy armies fighting for the power interests of foreign nations. Importantly, Cambodia was largely ethnically and religiously homogeneous, precluding a racial or religious pretext to foment resentment or strife.

The conditions for revolution were not abundant. The Khmer Rouge–formally known as the Communist Party of Kampuchea–remained an infinitesimal and marginal organization with less than 5000 members until 1970.

While a number of anti-colonialist movements and nationalist armed groups flourished in the 1940’s and 50’s, the signing of the French granting independence to Cambodia in 1953 and the subsequent Geneva accords in 1954, spelled the demise of virtually all the armed underground movements in Cambodia. The Cambodian branch of the Indochinese Communist Party—entirely controlled by the Vietnamese—withdrew their entire ethnic Khmer cadre to Hanoi in 1954. The anti-colonialist Khmer Issarak party evaporated. The leftist Pracheochon above ground political party and the anti-Sihanouk Democratic Party were neutralized. While leftist sentiments lingered and Sihanouk’s autocratic rule kept alive a movement seeking more democratic rule, it was largely marginalized by his heavy handed tactics.

So to what does one attribute the rise of the ultra-radical Communist party of Kampuchea that seized power in 1975 to, leaving millions of bones stacking the killing fields that testified to the Khmer Rouge unprecedented political experiment which ended with the military conquest of Cambodia by Vietnam that brought a halt to the CPK’s 3 years and 8 months in power? What was the genus of its ideology or origins in political theory that allowed them to burgeon and drove the implementation of its disastrous rule?

On September 30, 1960 a group of 10-15 men gathered at a secret meeting in the Phnom Penh railroad station for the first party Congress and formed the Communist Party of Kampuchea. For three days and nights they hammered out and approved a party line and statutes. A Central Committee was chosen with Tou Samouth as Party Secretary, Nuon Chea as Deputy Party Secretary, Saloth Sar, alias Pol Pot, as member, Ma Mong as member, Ieng Sary as member, Chong as member, and Kaev Meas as member. The more powerful sub grouping of the Standing Committee of the CPK compromised Tou Samouth, Nuon Chea, and Pol Pot. As Pol Pot was a teacher, as was Ieng Sary, (as well as both their wives, who were sisters), they were limited to working from Phnom Penh. Nuon Chea was tasked with travelling to the countryside.

According to unpublished interviews I conducted on three separate occasions in January, February, and March 1998 with Nuon Chea, he said: “ We implemented the principle of absolute party leadership in accordance with the slogan: a protracted, difficult, hard struggle, self-reliance, self-mastery, independence…As for the party statutes, the principles of Marxist-Leninism were used and the principle of Democratic centralism. And the Party had to build from the countryside as the foundation and the towns as following behind.”

Nuon Chea’s reference to Marxist-Leninism as a guiding party principle was the sole reference I heard from any senior or other party figure of the CPK. These included  extensive and repeated interviews with hundreds of Khmer Rouge senior political and military cadre, including every surviving member of the party leadership in research from the 1980’s to date. These included interviews with Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Ta Mok, Son Sen, Ke Pok, and Khieu Samphan, the only surviving members of the CPK Central Committee after their internal purges and the end of their rule in power. Other research also included hundreds of interviews with other senior political cadre and military commanders who mostly had joined the movement in 1970 or the late 1960’s.

Each of the leaders had their origins as members of other political parties that formed and disintegrated in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

In 1962, the Secretary General of the CPK, Tou Samouth, was arrested while riding his bicycle to get medicine for his sick child in Phnom Penh and taken to the home of then Sihanouk security chief Lon Nol, and interrogated in an unsuccessful attempt to reveal the names of other CPK members, tortured and then executed. He had been betrayed by a government double agent, Siev Heng, who was a former Secretary general of the earlier Vietnamese dominated Communist Party–the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP).

The KPRP  had effectively dissolved after the 1954 signing of the Geneva Agreements which mandated the withdrawal of armed forces to Hanoi, and the 1953 bilateral agreement of Cambodian independence between France and Cambodia, which returned Cambodia to independence from Colonial French rule.

After Tou Samouth’s execution, another Party Congress was held in 1963, and Pol Pot was named Secretary General. While logically Nuon Chea was slated to be Secretary General, he was the nephew of the traitor Siev Heng, and deep suspicions of his loyalties—given the impossible to minimize influence of family loyalty in Cambodian culture—precluded him from assuming the top post of the CPK.

The 1963 Party Congress elected Pol Pot as Secretary General, Nuon Chea as Deputy Secretary, and Ieng Sary, Chong, Keu (Sophal), Vorn Vet, Ruoh Nhem (Muol Sambath), Ta Mok, Ma Mong, and Sao Phim to the Central Committee of the CPK. The highest ranking body, the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, was comprised of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Sao Phim, and Ieng Sary. Of these ten, six were executed by the Khmer Rouge themselves in a series of purges once they obtained power.

Later in 1963, Prince Sihanouk, in his inimitable style, tauntingly announced that he would name 24 specific people as co-Prime Ministers of his government. They were the exact list of all 24 members of the central committee of CPK including Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan, and three leftist CPK supporters who were then members of Parliament, Khieu Samphan, Hou Nim, and Hou Yuon. The decision was made that most named would have to flee the city and go underground to various jungle redoubts.

This splintered the party leadership undermining its ability at communicating with one another or central organization and implementation of a coherent national policy to be in place when they seized power in 1975. It resulted in the development of essentially autonomous regional fiefdoms without any effective central party leadership. This is central to explaining the confusion over the origins of the killings after 1975 when essentially six separate Khmer Rouge armies converged on Phnom Penh simultaneously. The struggle for consolidating leadership and consistent national policy cannot be overemphasized, as the political policies and ideological philosophies differed widely on the ground in the different Khmer Rouge regions throughout the country.

The leadership themselves had scarce communication or coordination with each other, with Pol Pot based in the far Northeastern province of Rattanakiri, Ta Mok based in the Southwest, Nuon Chea travelling from Phnom Penh to the countryside, and Sao Phim based on the Vietnamese border to the East.

It is instructive to note, in an analysis of the origins of the political influences of the ideology that drove the CPK policy, that the CPK didn’t fire a shot for 7 years after its founding in 1960. A spontaneous peasant uprising in 1967 in the remote Battambang district of Samlaut over abusive government tax collectors sparked the CPK to make a decision to react in support. On 17 January, 1968, the Khmer Rouge raided a police post in Samlaut, killed a handful of government soldiers, stole weapons, and fled into the jungle. It was the beginning of a nascent armed struggle that would bring Pol Pot and the CPK to power 7 years later.

And it is crucial to recognize that they chose to embark on this guerrilla war after directly rejecting the plea’s not to initiate an armed struggle by both the Chinese and Vietnamese Communist Party leadership, according to Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, and Ta Mok in independent interviews with each.

“The Chinese and the Yuon (Vietnamese) told us that ‘If you decide to fight, it is like fighting your own father,” Ta Mok told me in February 1998, referring to Sihanouk. “But we saw that if we didn’t use arms the movement would be finished. Therefore we decided that we had to mobilize the armed movement. And it wasn’t as if there was a proper leadership. The southwest was the southwest, the east was the east, enjoying independence-self-mastery.”

This stands as a stark early example of the CPK refusing to follow the leadership or strategy of the international communist movement, even from the countries key to their short term tactical survival.

Mok’s analysis that there was no central leadership of the Khmer Rouge forces contributes to explaining the later purges by Pol Pot and his loyalists of most of the other senior leadership of CPK after 1975.

Of the ten members of the CPK standing committee named in 1963, 6 were executed by Pol Pot after they took power in 1975 and before they were deposed in 1979.

In 1975, when the CPK seized power, they had never publicly announced that the CPK even existed, and it wasn’t until September 1977, more than two years after the seized power, that it was announced that the CPK was ruling Cambodia. Previously, they had publicly contended that a united front government of divergent political ideologies were running the government, naming a fictitious group of United Front personalities who held nearly zero internal influence in formulating State policy but represented a broad sector of well-known figures, including King Sihanouk. Sihanouk remained the public Head of State while in fact under strict house arrest.

In September 1977, the CPK held another Party Congress and named as their standing committee members, in order of rank, Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Sao Phim, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Ta Mok, Vorn Vet, and Nheum. Of those 8 members, 3 were executed during the Khmer Rouge reign in power—Sao Phim, Vorn Vet, and Nhuem. They also named 22 members to the central committee of the CPK. Of these, 18 were ordered executed by the time the Khmer Rouge were ousted from power in 1979.

Among the first to be purged was Hu Yuon, who as finance minister, objected to the abolishment of markets and the elimination of the use of currency. He was believed to have been executed in the months after the 1975 liberation of Phnom Penh.

Hun Nim, Minister of Information, was arrested  and executed in 1977. It wasn’t the first time Hu Nim had been purged. In 1967, while a member of Parliament, Sihanouk publicly berated Nim as “a little hypocrite” whose “words carry the scent of honey, but hides his claws like a tiger”, and he “had the face of a Vietnamese or Chinese.”  Sihanouk added Hu Nim would be “subjected to the military tribunal and the execution block”.  He promptly fled to the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles. After Sihanouk was overthrown in 1970, and he himself joined in alliance with the Khmer Rouge, he called Hu Nim “one of our greatest intellectuals.

Hu Nim served as Minister of Information for the Khmer Rouge until arrested and tortured and executed in Tuol Sleng in 1977. In a  handwritten Tuol Sleng confession of 28 May, 1977 he wrote: “I have nothing to depend on, only the Communist Party of Kampuchea. Would the Party please show clemency towards me?” He also wrote “I am not a human being, I am an animal.”

“You say the enemy was trying to assassinate you, but most of your central committee was executed in Tuol Sleng before your years in power were finished, “ I asked Pol Pot, during an interview in October 1997, the only public sighting or comments he made after he was driven from power in January 1979. “Did they deserve to die, or was it a mistake?”

“You raise this question, but let me clarify this. These people were in the central leadership of Democratic Kampuchea, but they were not the people of Democratic Kampuchea,” Pol Pot responded. “In 1976 and 1977, that group of people you were talking about set up a coup d’état committee, especially against me. In that committee there were Vietnamese agents in the majority.”

“And among the leadership, they included whom?” I asked.

“My memory does not serve me well on that,” he answered rather incredulously, unable to remember the names of his top comrades he had ordered executed. He paused for about 30 seconds and then exclaimed, pointed his finger at me and fixed his gaze on my eyes, “but among those who were in the coup committee were Ya. He was a Vietnamese agent since 1946.”

Ya, alias Maen San was the zone secretary for the northeast appointed in January 1976, the same month he was arrested. He was also a member of the Standing Committee of the CPK.

The confession of Ya is particularly chilling. In an S-21 (Tuol Sleng ) document dated January 10, 1976, the Khmer Rouge chief executioner, Duch, wrote a note to Ya’s interrogator that “I reported to Angkar ( a reference used either for Pol pot or Nuon Chea. However Duch said he reported only to Son Sen and Nuon Chea and never directly spoke to  Pol Pot until 1988) at ten minutes to nine on the case of Ya based on the documents that comrade (you) provided…Angkar says that in the case that Ya remains reluctant and continues to hide his traitorous connections and activities, Angkar has decided to have him killed…Angkar has decided it is a case of having him looking down on the Party, not just down on our state security. Therefore for Ya, you can use the hot measures and for a long time. Even if those measures led to his death, comrade will not be wrongful toward Angkar’s discipline.” Duch signed off with “warm revolutionary fraternity.”

Pon, S-21’s top interrogator, added a note to the document in handwriting designated to be read by Ya. “Brother Ya, read this and think it through thoroughly.” The document was then given back to Ya.

Included among those executed were many top leaders of the Communist Party of Kampuchea named in power in 1975. They included Ya, Vorn Vet (ranked #7), Ruo Nheum alias Muol Sambat, Chou Chet alias Thang Si, Sao Phim, Koy Thuon, alias Thuoch (ranked #5), Chey Suon alias Non Suon (ranked  #11) and Ruos Nhim. All were members of the Standing Committee of the Party. Among the Central Committee members of the CPK who were arrested tortured and executed included Pang alias Chheum sak-aok alias Seuang, Chan, Pin, Reran alias So Sarouen, Mon, Meah Tal alias Sam Huoy, Nat alias Im Long, Koe alias Kung Sophal alias Kan, Phuong, and Chong, who was Ta Mok’s chief deputy and an ethnic Thai from Koh Kong province whose real name was Prasith.

An October 30, 1976 party  document entitled “Decision of the Central Committee on a Number of Problems: the Right to decide on extermination within and outside the ranks” named the following; All 6 zone heads, the 22 members of the central Committee of the CPK, the Standing Committee of the CPK, and the top leaders of the Armed Forces.

Many of these same leaders would also be arrested and executed at the instruction of other members of these bodies in the period between 1975 and 1979..

In 1999 interviews I conducted with Duch, the head of S-21 (Tuol Sleng), the primary internal security service responsible for arrests and executions, he blamed the genesis of the killings on Pol Pot’s 1973 decision to have all leaders come from the peasantry, eliminating educated cadre from positions of influence.

“ At that time many things changed, and many people were killed. After liberation in 1975, Pol Pot said ‘We must protect our country by finding enemies within the ranks of the party. We are not strong enough to attack enemies from the outside, so we must destroy them from within.’ First we arrested the people from the North, then the Southwest, then the Northwest, then the East. He used Nuon Chea to do the work. Pol Pot never directly ordered the killings. Nuon Chea was always cruel and pompous. He never explained to the cadre. He only ordered them. For arresting people, it was the everyday job of Nuon Chea and Son Sen. Pol Pot knew about S-21, but did  not direct it personally. He left that job to Nuon Chea as number 2 in the Party and Son Sen as head of the Army and Police,” Duch said.

“They arrested nearly everyone by the end…it is a permanent rule,” said Duch. “Whoever is arrested must be killed.”

In May 1978, Sao Phim, a top Standing Committee member and head of the Eastern Zone under Khmer Rouge rule, was ordered arrested and killed at a secret meeting of select top party leaders. In more than two weeks of recorded interviews, totaling 40 hours, with Duch while he was in the jungle living clandestinely under an assumed name immediately prior to his arrest, the commandant of the Khmer Rouge security service S-21, the killing machine of the regime, the man who actually personally carried out the orders to arrest, interrogate and execute that came from the top political leadership, he said: “It was brother number one (Pol Pot) who decided that Sao Phim would die…a very secret meeting was held—Pol Pot ordered it. Khieu Samphan was there—He was the note taker. Three men and especially one man ordered it. Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Son Sen were at the meeting–not Ieng Sary or Vorn Vet.”

By late 1978, another sweeping purge  was starting to crest. Among high ranking victims was Vorn Vet, a Party Standing Committee member who was also the deputy premier in charge of the economy. He was a long time protégé of Pol Pot, who had personally inducted Vorn Vet into the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In his “confessions” under torture,  Vorn Vet discussed his opposition to Pol Pot’s purges, which in turn was used as proof that was a traitor and enemy agent.

When the Vietnamese invaded in late 1978, documents found at Tuol Sleng revealed that another two senior leaders were also targeted for arrest and liquidation. One was long time Pol Pot associate and comrade, Son Sen, the Deputy premier in charge of National Defence, Chairman of the Armed forces general Staff, and  Standing Committee member. In practice, Son Sen was head of the entire Khmer Rouge Military and Security Services, including the secret police and execution and torture apparatus, during their years in power. As such, he was,  along with Nuon Chea, the CPK party representative that was the link between the political leadership and the killing machine itself. He was in fact the direct supervisor of the S-21 torture and execution center and the man to whom S-21 commandant Duch reported directly, alongside Nuon Chea. In Mid-1978, Son Sen was dispatched to command the troops fighting the escalating war with the Vietnamese on the eastern front, and relinquished his duties as S-21 liaison with the Party leadership to Nuon Chea. With the war going badly against Vietnam, the CPK leadership blamed not the superior military strength, troop numbers, battlefield experience, and superior firepower and morale of the Vietnamese, but Son Sen as an enemy agent because it was unfathomable that the CPK’s strategy was untenable in itself. With that logic used, it had to be purposeful sabotage of “enemies from within” that was responsible for the war not succeeding.

Another target for execution found in the files of S-21 from the last days before the Vietnamese overran Phnom Penh, showed that Ke Pok, Party Secretary and commander of the Central zone, also a member of the Standing Committee, was also targeted for arrest and execution. Ironically both Ke Pok and Son Sen were saved by the Vietnamese invasion before their arrests could be carried out.

The remaining five in the years after, all turned against each other.

Ieng Sary broke with Pol Pot in 1996 calling him a “dictator worse than Hitler” and sentencing him to death.

Pol Pot and Ta Mok announced that Ieng Sary was a “Vietnamese agent” and in turn sentenced him to death.

The irony that both Pol Pot and Ieng Sary had been sentenced to death, together,  as the “Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique” in a 1979 political show trial by the ex-Khmer Rouge installed by the Vietnamese invasion as the new Cambodian leaders, went largely unnoticed.

Pol Pot ordered the arrest of Nuon Chea, Son Sen and Ta Mok in November 1996, blaming them for the defection of Ieng Sary. He later, in June 1997, ordered the execution of Son Sen and Ta Mok, succeeding in killing Son Sen.

Khieu Samphan went on the clandestine jungle radio controlled by Pol Pot on June 10, 1997, calling Son Sen a “traitor and Vietnamese agent.” Ta Mok fought back and captured Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, and Nuon Chea.

Days after the execution of Son Sen, Khieu Samphan went back on the radio—this time on behalf of Ta Mok—referring to Son Sen as “comrade” and announcing that “Pol Pot” was under arrest as a “traitor.”

During several interviews in the Khmer Rouge controlled jungles with Khieu Samphan from October 1997 through1998, I asked if he was a hostage of Pol Pot during the internal fighting, he said: “You could call it something like that.”

So in the end, all ten of the original members of the 1963 Standing Committee of the CPK had been arrested, murdered, or sentenced to death by each other as “traitors.”

In fact by the end of Pol Pot’s rule in 1979, of the 22 members of the central committee of the CPK that were named in 1975 when they seized power, 18 had been executed or named to be executed as ‘enemy agents”  covertly plotting from within the CPK ranks.

Many cadres who fled to Vietnam in 1977 and 1978, including current premier Hun Sen, ruling party president Chea Sim, the titular head of the original  Vietnamese installed government Heng Samrin, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and Defence Minister Tea Banh fled in 1977 and 1978. Many were loyal officers who remained in power with the Khmer Rouge while hundreds of thousands died  at the hands of the government they were still loyal to, well after the disastrous policies and purges were implemented. They left the Khmer Rouge, not because of objection to Pol Pot’s policies, but rather because they were aware they were next on the list of targets.

During the massive purge of mid 1978 against “internal enemies” in the Party, the Khmer Rouge publicly announced that they were not just preparing for war against Vietnam, but the extermination of the entire Vietnamese race and the military re-capture of territory on the Mekong Delta that had been lost centuries before.

The Khmer Rouge strategy was clearly tactically, strategically and psychologically delusional. But they were no doubt serious.

They announced on State radio that Cambodia, with a population of 8 million, would eliminate the entire Vietnamese population of battle hardened 60 million, and explained their crude strategy. The May 10, 1978 Khmer Rouge radio proclaimed in a public broadcast. “ The party has instructed that we destroy as many of the enemy as possible, and try to preserve our forces to the maximum. We are few in number, but we have to attack a larger force. This is our slogan:  In terms of numbers, one of us must kill 30 Vietnamese. If we can implement this slogan, we surely can win. Using these figures, one Cambodian is equal to thirty Vietnamese. And 100 Cambodians are equal to 3000 Vietnamese. We should have 2 million troops for 60 million Vietnamese. We don’t have to engage 8 million people. We need only 2 million to crush the 60 million Vietnamese, and we would still have 6 million left We must format our combat line in this manner in order to win victory. The entire army, party, and people must be made fully aware of these views, lines, and stands. We must review our history. Have the Vietnamese succeeded in swallowing Cambodia? No, they have not. We must purify our armed forces, our Party, and the masses of people in order to continue fighting the enemy in defence of Cambodian territory and the Cambodian race. If we do not try and defend our territory, then we shall lose it, and then our race will disappear. The Vietnamese will bring in one or two million people into Cambodia every year, and then we will lose our territory, and our race will be completely swallowed up.”

This official Khmer Rouge strategy was not a secret later unearthed from an internal party document. It was broadcast on their radio for both internal and foreign consumption in 1978 in their final months in power. Their military and political formula was patently delusional, and based on no remotely viable military strategy. It was simply ludicrous.

The “victory” was that the Khmer race would remain, in theory, with 6 million alive, ancient Khmer territory lost centuries ago would be re-conquered, and current territory would be saved from fictional, delusional, non-existent, foreign plots of foreign designs of annexation rooted in age old historical grievances.

It was nothing less than the manifestations of delusions of grandeur, still oozing the puss of the deep humiliation, resentment, and fixation for vengeance for the defeats now ancient history, seared into the minds of the popular Cambodian consciousness, harking back 800 years to the still forever at the forefront of contemporary political agenda of the Great Angkor Empire, which had evaporated by the 14th century.

This deep sense of racial and cultural insecurity, a national psychological disorder of a shared racial and cultural inferiority complex combined with a shocking national acceptance of the need to exact eventual revenge and a deep sense of humiliation, preceded the Khmer Rouge and remains at the very core of mainstream political and psychological culture. But when mixed with Stalinist style internal political power structures under Pol Pot, the inevitability of an implosion into an orgy of unspeakable violence and collapse seems retrospectively both logical and predictable.

Pol Pot’s other major internal central policy focused singularly on the rapid creation of a patently untenable rise in agricultural production. He based his goals on the superior racial abilities of the Khmer peasants. He set unachievable quotas for rice production that were guaranteed to fail.

He was obsessed  with an ability to create a superior agrarian utopia based on self-reliance on Khmer resources, which largely didn’t exist. Pol Pot’s domestic policies of agricultural production goals, the regional production of rice quotas mandated by the central party, were simply unattainable, guaranteed to fail, and a queer mixture of delusion, incompetence  and a stark false sense of self grandeur.

Cambodia’s mechanized resources were simply non-existent, its agricultural productive capacity and infrastructure decimated by 5 years of warfare when Pol Pot came to power, and its trained human resources and technically skilled cadre with even minimum expertise  minuscule in number and capability. In addition, anyone with foreign training and the skills, who returned from abroad upon victory to build a new society, were deemed suspected spies and most were killed. In addition, local and regional cadre who questioned the ability to meet the quotas were deemed foreign enemy agents intent on sabotaging the revolution and arrested and executed.

“They fought against us, so we had to take measure to defend ourselves,’ Pol Pot told me in 1997, blaming “enemies from within” for sabotaging the regimes’ policy goals. He blamed starvation that killed hundreds of thousands on “enemies within our ranks” who “withheld food from the people. There was rice but they didn’t give rice to the population to eat.”

The list of enemies ranged from officials of the defeated Lon Nol regime, to “internal agents” within the Party and the army, to Vietnamese, CIA, and KGB plots, often working simultaneously in coordination with one another, to his contention of six attempted coup attempts to depose assassinate and him, to finally the entire nation and race of Vietnam.

In 1977, Khieu Samphan stressed the rejection of foreign aid as a “science.”

“In the old regime did the school children, college children, university graduates know anything about the true natural sciences? Could they tell the difference between an early crop and a six month rice crop…they relied completely on foreigners, expecting foreign equipment and even foreign experts to do their job for them. Everything was done according to foreign books and foreign standards. Therefore, it was useless and could not serve the needs of our people, nor could it be of any help building our nation. By contrast, our children in rural regions have always had useful knowledge. They can tell you which cow is tame and which cow is skittish. They can mount a buffalo from both sides. They are masters of the herd. They have practically mastered nature. Only this should be called natural science because this type of knowledge is closely connected with the realities of the nation, with the ideas of nationalism, national construction, and national defense.”

In its place the Khmer Rouge mandated thousands of underfed and overworked forced labour to build poorly designed water irrigation systems, planting and harvesting at a pace that resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands from sheer overwork and exhaustion. The nationwide system of irrigation and water canals was designed with the help of North Korean engineers and can be clearly seen criss-crossing the entire country from space satellites. None of the irrigation  canals or dams work today, a colossal failure in clueless technology . untrained expertise and delusional visions of racial grandeur that cost hundreds of thousands of lives, starved and worked to death, forced to hand build the absurd scheme.

The ban on the use of money was also a direct consequence of the CPK hyper focus on foreign enemies trying to destroy Cambodia. “Pol Pot was convinced that only the ban of the use of money could prevent the CIA from carrying out any activity in Cambodia because in his view the CIA used money to buy people and recruit agents,” said CPK Standing Committee member and Pol Pot’s brother in law Ieng Sary after he defected in 1996.” He boasted that if we used money, his regime would not have lasted three months and so far no other country could do the same.”

In July, 1976, the Khmer Rouge embarked on a Four Year Plan in all Fields, 1977-1980.” The document acknowledged “we are extremely weak” in industry and technology, but said “technology is not the decisive factor; the determining factors of the revolution are politics, revolutionary people, and revolutionary methods.” It also rejected  accepting foreign assistance saying “we would certainly obtain some, but this would affect our political line…there would be political conditions imposed on us without fail.” The document concluded that Cambodia “had leaped over the feudalists and capitalists of every nation, and have achieved a socialist state right away.” They even said they had out achieved North Korea, China, and North Vietnam, saying “ we are faster than them…nothing is confused as it is with them…we don’t need a long time for the transformation.”

But while modern Cambodia bears no political or geographical resemblance to the ancient political and military and cultural antecedents of the Angkor period, the Angkor empire is crucial to understanding the motives and psychology of Pol Pot and, indeed, the modern Cambodian society that  created the Khmer Rouge rise to power, and to a significant degree the political culture that succeeded it and remains dominant today.

Pol Pot’s political contemporaries almost all shifted allegiance in recent decades to serving alternately as military and political allies and adversaries to the Khmer Rouge. Sharing many similar objectives and characteristics, the political leaders succeeding and preceding Pol Pot in power, comprise a consistent modern political culture remarkably still dominated by the same cast of characters from French independence in 1953 to the present. They together share key responsibility to the disaster wrought by the Khmer Rouge and their short tenure in power.

But it reelected the sincere belief of Khmer racial and cultural and political prowess that was superior to all other nations and theories in history and this belief was carried out in all sectors of government policy.

A look at the backgrounds and statements of the leaders of the CPK provides little substantiation of the theory that their murderous policies were inspired by any allegiance to communism, but rather points instead to its roots in traditional Cambodian political themes of nationalism, anti-colonialism, vitriolic abhorrence to foreign domination, sovereignty, retaking territory lost in past centuries to neighboring powers, racial superiority of Khmers and racial hatred for foreigners, particularly Vietnamese.

In detailed personal interviews with every living  member of the Standing Committee of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, only once did I ever hear a reference to Communism as an influence in their ideological development

The leadership of the Khmer Rouge was a disparate grouping of individuals with few shared teachings, backgrounds, ideology, or unified vision.

Pol Pot was a failed radio technician student from a rural middle class background influenced by anti-colonialist and nationalist movements who dabbled in leftist politics while a student in France and was inducted into the French Communist Party. Upon his return to Cambodia in the early 1950’s, after failing out of his radio technical school, he was inducted into the predecessor to the CPK, the  Indochinese Communist Party, by the Vietnamese, who held firm control over the communist movement in the three Indochinese countries at the time. Before joining the original formation of the CPK in 1960, he taught school and wrote articles under pseudonyms signed “The Original Khmer” and the “The nation, the People, and the Race.” The latter was the same pseudonym he used to sign his radio broadcasts from the jungles in the 1980’s and 90’s, after being deposed from power.

In 1997, when I asked Pol Pot about his political influences and what drove his policies during his reign, he said: “I would like to say that my conscious is clear. Everything I have done is for the nation the people and the race of Cambodia. I want to tell you, I am quite satisfied with one thing: If there was no struggle carried out by us, Cambodia would have been Kampuchea Krom (a reference to areas of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam which were annexed by Vietnam in the 1700’s) in 1975.”

“ During 1975-78 there were of course some conflicting views, this is true,” he said, obliquely avoiding my questions of mass murder under his rule. “There was opposition to Democratic Kampuchea, and, of course, Democratic Kampuchea had to do something about that. The Vietnamese carried out activities for some time. Naturally we had to defend ourselves. They wanted to kill me.”

“Who is they?” I asked.

“Mainly the Vietnamese. They knew without me they could easily swallow up Cambodia.”

Pol Pot saw himself literally as the personal embodiment of the Cambodian nation. Any opposition to him was interpreted as treason against the Khmer race and Cambodian nation itself, by definition. This fealty to a single infallible God King like ruler, who demands unquestioned, obsequious loyalty, has been the dominant characteristic of Cambodian organization of government power for 800 years, both historically and immediately preceding Pol Pot’s rise to power and the dominant feature of his successor, the ex-Khmer Rouge officer, the dictator Hun Sen, who has held power since Pol Pot was forced back to the jungle in 1979.

Pol Pot, the ugly truth remains, is very not only Khmer, but fits comfortably in mainstream contemporary Cambodian political culture, sharing dominant core traits with his ostensible contemporary adversaries.

(Copyright Nate Thayer. All rights reserved. No republication, quotation from, copying or dissemination in whole or in part without prior written permission from Author)

 

The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

6 Aug

The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

By Nate Thayer

August 6, 2013

There is only one thing more frustrating to freelance journalists than being asked by for profit companies to work for free.

That is being forced to spend months fighting, arguing, begging, threatening, cajoling, and renegotiating to, if you are lucky, actually get paid a portion of the compensation you were promised for the work you have already done.

Every freelance journalist, photographer, musician and creative artist on the planet knows exactly this scenario–how unethical, debilitating, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating this, routinely, is part of the everyday cadence of freelancers who make a living practicing their craft.

Here is a portion of the latest example of my being forced to divert my attention today from writing for a living to trying to get paid for that work already performed that has taken up much of my last few weeks.

Most every freelance journalist, and creative artist, will immediately recognize, and is all too familiar with the depressing, common scenario.

For much of May June and July, I was solicited and commissioned by a major Hong Kong based company which promotes Chinese direct investment in the U.S. economy, to write articles, copy edit, and provide other professional consultancy work to help them write a news letter, corporate brochures, and other English language documents.

For freelance news journalists, such work is often drudgery, and slightly demeaning, but necessary to supplement the dwindling opportunities to make a living as a journalist in these profoundly changing times for a free press in free societies.

The Hong Kong company has, to date, despite scores of attempts on my part, not paid a single dollar for these months of work.

Today, I received an email from them, after no response to increasingly strident messages from me since early July, saying they had no intention of paying me–at all–for the professional services they initiated, commissioned me for, and that I provided them.

It is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario faced by freelancers everywhere.

from:     XXXXXX<xxx.xxxx@xxxxxx.com>

to:          Nate Thayer <thayernate0007@gmail.com>

cc:          xxxxxx.xxxxxx@xxxxx.xxxx>

date:      Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

subject: Response to second payment request

10:24 AM (3 hours ago)

Hello Nate,

Per your earlier request about $5980, I have discussed with xxx and here is our response.

You and I have agreed orally to work on the newsletter as a project and you have agreed to provide us with a compensation proposal during our first meeting in Caribou cafe on June 25th. However, you have failed to present us with that proposal. And the project didn’t yield much result because what you wrote was not usable for us. So I am afraid that we can’t pay you what you are asking for.

We appreciate your work and it’s regrettable that it didn’t work out well. I wish you best of luck with your career in the future.

Best,

xxxxxxxx

Communication Director

My Response:

Dear XXXX,

I think you must have sent me a message you intended for someone else, so I wanted to alert you so you could correct your error and direct it to the proper recipient.

This would save XXXXXX the embarrassment of being accused of being guilty of the most transparent, egregious, immoral, unethical and illegal business practices that are readily provable and evidenced by the mountain of documents from yourself and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX to me soliciting my work, congratulating me on its quality, and repeatedly soliciting more work, which you acknowledged, approved and thanked me for, in writing, throughout June and July 2013.

There is an off chance that you actually didn’t push the wrong send button, and you actually seriously meant to tell me that you don’t intend to pay me for the 62 hours of work (which was an extremely generous and conservative invoice of my time and efforts made on your behalf in June and July, taking into account that you repeatedly missed deadlines, changed your requests, asked me to standby for urgent deadline work requests which then didn’t materialize, and other bumps and starts which I attributed to your lack of experience or knowledge of the production requirements of putting out a quality newsletter).

This is work you solicited and I performed at the request of you and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX that you are now in default in paying me the $5890.00 you owe.

If by some unfathomable chance you have taken leave of your sanity, and you actually intended to say that XXXXX, after contacting me and securing my professional services 2 months ago, in which the physical records of  several hundred exchanges of emails, documents, text messages, Skype conversations, phone calls, conference calls between you, I , and XXXXX CEO XXXXX in Hong Kong, and personnel meetings, all of which document with indisputable clarity me having provided those professional services at your request and the request of XXXXX CEO XXXXX to XXXXXX during that period and are in my possession, that XXXXXXXX does not owe me compensation and payment of $5890.00 for providing my services, please clarify to me why the fuck not, promptly.

Two months after I began working for you, in which you have repeatedly delayed living up to your singular end of the deal—to pay me for my fucking work—you are now seriously contending that I didn’t work for you and you didn’t use my services at your request and initiation and are refusing to pay me?

Really?

As a matter of advice, it might be in your much better interest to rethink that strategy in your rather bizarre attempt to renege on having to live up to your promises and obligations to pay for the services you solicited, contracted, and received.

Here are some random samples of scores of quotes from your own messages to me that obviously shows that your suggestion that you did not agree to pay me or use my work you contracted me to perform for XXXXX, is ludicrous.

By my rough count, there were approximately 327 exchanges of emails, text messages, Skype conversations, Dropbox documents, phone calls, conference calls, and personal meetings in June and July between you, I, and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX.

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXXX to me on June 30:

On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 11:45 PM,  XXXXXX  wrote:

Nate

Thanks for your notes, these are my feedback, I have not talked with Min, but wanted to send this to you first, let’s discuss and get this moving.

Thanks

XXXXXXX

President & CEO

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXXX to me and XXXXX CEO XXXXXXXXX July 1:

Hello Nate,

The newsletter outline is right on track. We have some comments to share with you. Please see the attachment. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Best,

XXXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXXX

From me to XXXXXXX Chairman XXXXXX and Communications Director XXXXXX July 1:

XXXXXX:

See my comments highlighted in yellow below.

I thought the comments and suggestions were all spot on, useful, and good.

Cheers,

Nate

From XXXXXX to me July 1:

Hello Nate,

please find the attachment with our comments in red underline. We are riding on a good momentum here, please let us know your plan going forward.

Good luck with moving today!

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX July 1:

date:      Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 12:28 AM

subject: Re: Thanks for your notes

Hi Nate,

thank you, this is exciting to find a passionate, professional writer we can rely on.

July 2 email from XXXXXX to me:

Hello Nate,

We have drafted a Newsletter table of content, which includes the three articles that you are working on and also another 12 articles which we found “fit to print”. All of them need to be worked out this week. Next to you, XXXXX and myself will take up some writing. I just sent an email to our team for TOC comments and inputs. Here I am sharing with you.

Best,

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXX

XXXXXX Newsletter Table of Content for Your Comments

Dear colleagues,

We are redesigning the XXXXX newsletter. The newsletter will demonstrate our mission in building bridges between US and China, inform the readers about XXXXX developments and create a platform for XXXXX partners, XXXXX communities and XXXXX past events participants to contribute to XXXXX mission. The newsletter will have print and online edition and will contain texts, photos and videos.

Since the last time some of you saw the newsletter index, we have made quite some changes and renamed it as Table of Contents. Please take a look at the latest XXXXXXX Newsletter Table of Contents ( TOC) and share with me your comments.  This TOC is designed primarily for the English newsletter, although we plan to let the Chinese newsletter to keep most of these items if not all.

Each numerical item represent a section and an article. Articles will generally be between 300 – 600 words, with one or multiple photos. We have set up 15 sections, which roughly doubles what we used to publish. Even though XXXXX, Nate ( outsourced writer ) and myself will take up majority of the writing, there are five articles that currently don’t have author. I highlighted them in yellow and if you are interested to produce any of these articles, please send an email to me.

Because we are working on a tight schedule, I’d like to ask you to please provide your comments before July 3rd, 6 pm EST.

Thank you!

From a July 8 email to me from XXXXX on XXXXXX official email:

Hello Nate,

Thank you for submitting the three articles. They are well developed, only need some minor adjustment, which we will mark out tonight. The newsletter is moving quickly. We plan to publish it this Friday. I have a translated article that needs some copy editing. I will send it to you in a separate email in an hour or so. I can see that you have put in a lot of effort, and I hope we can find a time to have coffee and recap after the dusts are settled.”

Or another message from XXXXX to me on July 8:

“Hello again,

I am sending you the short article that need some copy editing. This one can be worked out after you finish with article 2 and 3 revision. It’s a straight forward article, just need to smooth out and make it read like a 1st tier professional English news media article.”

Email to me from XXXXXX from July 11:

Hello Nate,

We are entering the final stages in the newsletter production. Let me give you an update since yesterday.

1. XXXXX approved all the section names and the article 2-4 packaging change.

2. Two more article folders are ready for copy editing. My colleagues sent me stories for article 7 and 8.

So for today, could you first finish the final copy editing for articles 7-15? Some of these are short articles. To purpose is to smooth the language, final round check. Some of the articles are already copy edited by you, such as # 9, 10, 12. Some are functional pieces, such as # 8, 11. For these kind, little changes maybe needed, but I still hope you simply go over them to approve the language for the last round.

For this kind of editing, because no big changes are needed, so there is no need for you to turn on track changes. If you want to show me places that you are unclear about or need me to look at afterwards, please highlight them in yellow.

Can you get this done before 5 pm today? And please send them in one by one as you finish copy editing.

After that, can you add a forth paragraph to dropbox article 2 to summarize what to be expect in the following three articles ?

XXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXX

There are dozens more, but I think you get the point.

I know you are young, inexperienced, and new to my country, and I know these kinds of unethical business practices are routine in your home country of the People’s Republic of China, so here is a bit of unsolicited advice to avoid unnecessary headaches for you as you start your budding career doing business in the properly organized world: Pay your fucking bills; pay them on time; don’t try and steal other people’s work; and live up to your promises.

One’s reputation as a person and a business of honor and integrity is important in a business environment driven by the rule of law and ethical conduct.

Given XXXXXXX singular mandate, using the company slogan “Building Trust, Creating Jobs”, is to promote Chinese direct investment in the United States by easing concerns among Americans and economic development officials that such investment will not be tainted by China’s well-earned reputation of using dubious business practices to make a fast buck and undermine the interests of those it is conducting business with, the irony of XXXXXX refusing to pay a contracted employee (that would be me) for services XXXXXX solicited, is a more than a tad ripe.

Please let me know if perhaps you have misspoken and let me know sometime in the next three hours.

On a positive note, I do think that your particularly stark attempt to refuse to live up to your legal and ethical responsibilities by trying to wangle out of paying for the services you solicited, contracted, and received, does make for a perfect case study of what thousands of freelance journalists and other producers of creative products face daily and are all too familiar with.

On a more negative note, for you in any case, I assure you, have fucked with the wrong person.

If you are under the delusion that you will not very much regret not having the $5890.00 in my bank account by the end of the business day Wednesday, August 7, you would be mistaken.

With all sincerity,

Nate Thayer

Within two hours of me sending this email, the Chinese company communication director rang me on the phone, attempting to argue they had no legal obligation to pay me anything.

“Let me be clear here. Fuck you! You either have $5890.00 wired and in my my account by the close of business day Wednesday August 7, or you will, I assure you, regret you were ever under the profound miss-impression that retaining my professional services could be had without living up to your end of the pretty simple arrangement—pay me my fucking money! This is not a matter of discussion, little less negotiation.”

She then offered me $1500.00

“Fuck you! You will pay the $5890.00 you owe me and a wire transfer in my bank account with that $5980.00 by the close of business Wednesday, August 7.”

“I will let you know our decision,” she said before I hung up the phone.

3 minutes later, my phone rang. It was the company CEO from Hong Kong. The conversation was civil and polite and clear. He agreed to send the money owed me by wire transfer immediately, today Hong Kong time.

But it took 3 weeks of dozens of increasingly acrimonious messages exchanged, a considerable amount of angst, and an entirely unnecessary and distracting amount of effort to simply get paid what had been agreed long ago was the amount owed me.

I estimate I spend 40% of my time negotiating payment and then trying to get those who commissioned my writing and agreed to compensate me for it to live up to their agreement to do so.

It is hard enough to make a living as a freelance journalist these days, but it is made infinitely more difficult by those who commission one’s work, invariably under the pressure of tight deadlines, and then give no priority to living up to their side of the agreement to fairly compensate you.

I detest it. And I, for one, am fed up with it.

Within hours of receiving my above message, the $5890.00 was transferred by wire to my bank account.

Another unpleasant day distracted from focusing on the only thing I do know what to do—write.

North Korean Tourism Dwarfed by Visitors to Elvis,South Korea For Nose Jobs, Thai Sex Change Operations

22 Feb

North Korean Tourism Dwarfed by Visitors Paying Homage to Elvis, Thai Sex Change Tourists, Those Seeking Nose Jobs in South Korea; And 1/15 of UK Citizens Traveling Abroad for Dental Treatment; 

In 2012, North Korea welcomed nearly 30,000 visitors, including 4000 westerners, and official state media trumpeted this week that foreign tourism is “booming” days after they exploded a nuclear bomb drawing global condemnation. State news organ KCNA said the number of foreign visitors to the North has grown since 2000 and has surged after 2009, citing a spike in European visitors but offering no statistics. “The global popularity of tourism to (North Korea) is booming,” they said, citing socialist accomplishments by the Kim family hereditary dynastic regime.

Tourists Bow Paying Homage to Kim Il Sung

Tourists Bow Paying Homage to Kim Il Sung

Independent industry analysts have put the number of western visitors to North Korea at about 2,000 per year, but KCNA said this week tourists rose “sharply” from 2009.  The respected independent NK News quoted Simon Cockerell, General Manager at Koryo Tours, the preeminent group tour operator to Pyongyang based in Beijing, saying numbers have spiked, but visitor numbers are so small “an unexpected increase of a few dozen can look like a large percentage surge.”

It is estimated that in 2012 perhaps 4,000 Western visitors traveled to the world’s most isolated nation, and KCNA said that “eye-catching achievements made by the country in the effort for building a thriving socialist nation in recent years are one of the attractions.”

But a tourism boom in North Korea is quintessentially relative. A cursory comparative look breaks the annual visitor arrivals to North Korea down to the equivalent of the number of tourists who arrive from abroad every 34 minutes in the U.S., and every 27 minutes in France.

Less foreign visitors travel to North Korea annually than take in the British Lawnmower Museum in the U.K. Foreign visitors to North Korea per year amount to less than 5% of those who visit the birthplace of Elvis Presley—Graceland in Memphis Tennessee which attracts 600,000 people annually to pay homage to the “King”. Graceland opened for tours on June 7, 1982. “We had no idea whether 30 people were coming, or 300, or 3,000 that first day, Fortunately, it was the latter,” said Jack Sodden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. They sold out all 3,024 tickets on the first day and the flow of tourists has remained steady, with an average of 600,000 annual visitors to the mansion.

The Elvis Presley Shrine at Graceland Draws More than 20 Times the Visitors than Visit North Korea Every Year

The Elvis Presley Shrine at Graceland Draws More than 20 Times the Visitors than Visit North Korea Every Year

The entire annual number of foreign visitors to the Hermit Kingdom is less than 3% of those who trek to visit the home of one of capitalism’s most storied robber barons, the Biltmore Estate of the Vanderbilt family in America’s deep rural South, which attracts 900,000 visitors per year.

Fetish Con, an annual sex conference celebrating all things kinky, attracts more than 10,000 people annually worldwide to a U.S. city by people interested in the whips, toys, videos, outrageously high high-heels and black leather stiletto knee-high boots, and features such offerings as Kinky Karaoke, with fetish enthusiasts dressed in outfits ranging from very little to full-body latex. That is more than twice the total annual western visitors to all of North Korea at the moment.

Annual Sex Fetish Conference Draws More Visitors Than North Korea Does in an Entire Year

Annual Sex Fetish Conference Draws More Visitors Than North Korea Does in an Entire Year

Each year about a half million leather clad bikers and their half naked girlfriends converge on the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota for the world’s largest motorcycle rally—more than 15 times the entire yearly total of foreigners who visit North Korea.

A more nuanced comparison makes the entire cumulative arrival of visitors to North Korea less than those who travel to Thailand for sex change operations. It stands, for instance as 1/15 of UK citizens who traveled abroad in 2011 for dental treatment. In 2006, Israel welcomed 15,000 foreigners who traveled there for medical procedures, bringing in $40 million of revenue. 30,000 people came to Iran in 2012 to receive medical treatment. About 1 million Californians go to Mexico for healthcare procedures, mostly to Tijuana seeking weight loss, and plastic surgery, in addition to alternative cancer treatments. According to the Secretary of Tourism of Baja California, Mexico in 2009, close to 8 million people went to Tijuana for some type of healthcare.

The most obvious comparison is in South Korea where in 2009, a total number of 60,000 medical tourists arrived, rising in 2010 to 80,000. The South Korean Ministry of Health has set the target for 2015 to up to 300,000 medical tourists. Currently, the most popular treatments for medical tourists are cosmetic procedures such as eyelid surgery, nose jobs, facelifts, and skin lightening.

There are no reports of any visitors choosing Pyongyang as a preferred destination for medical care.

So a surge in foreigners visiting Pyongyang is all a matter of perspective.

travel sino bridge afp

Tourists to North Korea must go on guided tours and must have their tour guides with them at all times. Photography is strictly controlled, as is interaction with the local population.

In 2002, the scenic Mount Kumgang close to the South Korea border was designated a special tourist destination, and South Korean tourist companies brought thousands of South Koreans to Mount Kŭmgang until that was suspended in late 2008 after an elderly South Korean woman was shot dead by North Korean soldiers for veering off the designated tourist paths. When tours had still not resumed by May 2010, North Korea unilaterally seized hundreds of millions of dollars of South Korean real estate assets developed to accommodate tourists in the region.

In July 2005, the South Korean Hyundai Group signed an agreement with the North Korean government to open up more areas to tourism, including Baekdu Mountain and Kaesong, which was opened to tours for South Korean and foreign tourists in December 2007, with North Korea charging US $180 for a one-day trip, receiving several hundred tourists each week.

The tours to Baekdu Mountain were suspended in December 2008 after Pyongyang objected to South Korea activists sending balloons filled with propaganda messages critical of Kim Jong Il which floated into the North. When South Korea did not respond to North Korean demands to stop the propaganda balloons, North Korea suspended the Kaesong tours. The tours to Kaesong resumed in April 2010, but were again suspended the next month in May 2010 after Pyongyang sent clandestine spies into South Korean territorial waters and torpedoed a South Korean ship, the ROKS Cheonan, which sunk, killing dozens of South Korean navy sailors.

Chinese tourists make up the lion’s share of the still miniscule tourist industry. In April 2010, tourist trains from Dandong, China began a highly controlled 4-day trip to North Korea. Prior to that, the international train from Beijing to Pyongyang was the only train allowed for tourists to the North. In June 2011, Chinese citizens were allowed on controlled bus tours to a strictly delineated zone near the Chinese border focused on shopping for the first time, and in January 2012, were able to bring their own mobile phones into the DPRK for the first time without being confiscated by border authorities to be returned upon departing the country, but without a North Korean sim card, strictly prohibited in North Korea, the phones are useless as they are unable to make or receive calls. The number of Chinese tourists visiting North Korea fell 70 percent from 2010 to 2011, with Chinese tour operators citing restrictions on where tourists can travel—only the capital Pyongyang and Mt. Kumgang–for the lack of interest.

The leading tour company for non Chinese citizens desiring to visit North Korea, is the quirky, but highly professional and knowledgeable British run, Beijing based Koryo tours, which have been running curious visitors to the hermit Kingdom for 20 years.

Arrival Customs Gate at Pyongyang Airport

Arrival Customs Gate at Pyongyang Airport

When visitors arrive by plane in Pyongyang, they land on an empty runway, and walk into an empty terminal. One visitor wrote “On a visit to North Korea I had a surreal experience as my Air China plane touched down at Pyongyang airport the music which was played into the passenger cabin was Isaac Watts’ Christmas carol “Joy To The World”:

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room;

And let Heaven and nature sing.”

The nonexistent lines at customs efficiently immediately confiscate all mobile phones and electronic devices. Shortwave radios are sometimes allowed into the country—after they are taken in a back room and radio frequency access is sauntered to the state propaganda channel. Listening to foreign broadcasts is punishable by jail. Each visitor is met at the security gate by two government minders who accompany all visitors during every waking hour while in country.

Visitors can go to a handful of approved sites, which include visiting the captured US spy ship Pueblo, the war museum where guides lecture on American atrocities committed against Koreans, pay homage to the Kim clan at  statues, and visit the $900 million building where Kim father and son lay embalmed, and houses thousands of gifts from every corner of the world given to the Kim’s when they were alive. The Palace of the Sun serves doubly as a museum, and visitors are forbidden from speaking and must remove their shoes and put on disposable plastic sleeves over ones feet to make sure no germs infect the sacred site.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist's chair (insert "on-site guidance" joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

Some favored the portrait of Kim Il Sung behind a gynecologist’s chair (insert “on-site guidance” joke here). I preferred the one of him sitting behind a desk double-fisting ears of corn.

A comparable experience is offered at the “International Friendship Exhibition” in Mount Myohyang-san, which has on display over 200,000 gifts given to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, carefully separated by country leaving the impression that the Kim’s have a fervent and massive global following. The gifts range from whole train cars and handguns from world leaders, to knickknacks from obscure communist sympathizers in the U.S. and Europe who are portrayed as famous renowned vanguard of these countries oppressed proletariat. Many of the groups one suspects have memberships in the single digits and the uninitiated might be shocked to learn that virtually none of their countrymen have ever heard of them. Other gifts include a stuffed crocodile in bow tie and waistcoat standing on two legs holding a cocktail tray and serving drinks, courtesy of the Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, and a Tolpuddle Martyrs plate from the British parliamentary Labour party.

Formal attire is required of all visitors to both the mausoleum and gift repository museum, and all are mandated to bow to a statue of Kim Il-sung, march down marble corridors, pass through a wind tunnel to shake the dust from ones clothes, and then into a darkened room holding the embalmed body of Kim Il-sung where visitors line up in rows and must step forward three steps at a time, and bow three times from three different directions.

Then one is taken to another marble chamber where an audio recording is played of the reaction of North Korean’s when the Great Leader died which includes this typical clip: “All people were rending their hearts! And weeping scalding tears that as they hit the ground fossilized and became glittering pieces of stone! It was as if the earth itself had died!”

TOUR1

“After depositing our cameras and bags in the coat check room, we were instructed to line up in rows of four and walk to the security checkpoint…we were quickly forced back into a single line in order to get through the metal detector and subsequent pat down by soldiers of the Korean People’s Army. But then again, this is North Korea, and if you’re told to get in a row of four, you get in a row of four.

Having been checked for explosives, weapons, and cameras, we then encounter an incredibly long moving walkway. I was a bit surprised to see a standard airport feature in a somber mausoleum. We began walking on the moving walkway, as most people, save the exceptionally lazy, usually do, until we were quickly instructed by our guide that we were supposed to stand still and let the walkway slowly take us to our destination. So we stood there, quietly, and patiently, as the walkway delivered us to…yet another walkway. It seemed like we had traveled for a mile on these things. In fact, I’m willing to bet that, as with everything in the DPRK, it’s the longest moving walkway in the world.”

The tourist then continues describing “standing before the large white statue of Kim Il-Sung, which was bathed in a beautiful pink and blue lighting…while music plays in the background. God, this place is so weird. And we haven’t even gotten to the actual corpse yet.”

Then one is taken to another room with another statue of Kim and given audio headsets “which contains a track of an over dramatic man with a British accent telling us how the death of Kim Il-Sung was basically the worst thing to ever happen in the history of mankind.

Finally, it was time to see the Great Leader himself. First, however, we had to be purified, and were led through a chamber with powerful jets of air that blew any specks of dirt off of us American Imperialists. Thoroughly cleansed, we entered a dimly lit room with high ceilings. In the center of the room was a glass coffin containing the body of Kim Il-Sung, which was draped with a blanket so that only the head was visible. In front of us, rows of somber North Koreans bowed before the coffin, under the vigilant gaze of ramrod straight white gloved soldiers clutching their polished Kalashnikovs….Lenin’s Mausoleum truly has nothing on this place.”

Then it is on to another room with a “giant map showing all the places Kim managed to visit during his tenure, as well as his personal rail car and official vehicle.”

And then to another room “filled with all of the “awards” bestowed upon Kim Il-Sung by foreign governments and political parties. Most of them aren’t real awards, but rather trinkets with little value that have been put on display to give North Koreans the impression that their Great Leader was highly respected all over the world…I was quite amused to come across an honorary degree from Kensington University of Glendale, California.”

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A cursory research of Kensington University reveals it is a fake degree program since eliminated as a fraud degree issuing mill by both the states of California and Hawaii, where it was once located run out of an obscure lawyer’s office in Glendale, California.

Kim Il Sung is not the only high profile dubious dictator to have obtained a degree from Kensington University. Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, since overthrown in a popular revolution and fled the country in January 2011, had a diploma from Kensington University hanging on his wall in his palace–a doctorate in political science awarded in 1999. The university was shut down by the state of California for granting diplomas by mail and having “little or no rigor or credible academic standards.”

The North Korean dictator didn’t go quite as far as the Cambodian dictator Hun Sen, who left school to join Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge in the jungle as a teenager. He was awarded an Honorary Ph.D. in Political Science by Hanoi in 1991 and another honorary Ph.D. in Politics from the Southern California University for Professional Studies in the USA in 1995. But his most treasured accolade was when, in 1996, he was presented with an Honorary Ph.D. of Law by Iowa Wesleyan College, USA. He publicly declared that he was now an accredited lawyer and on September 15, 2004, Hun Sen was accepted and sworn in as a member of the Bar Association of Cambodia.

Dong Zong Chairman, Dr. Yap Sin Tian – a controversial Malaysian leader pushing for Chinese education bought his doctorates from the Internet, including a PhD from the Kensington University in 1993 and another doctorate in Business Administration from Kensington University in 1991.

Dr Yap is the chairman of the board of the New Era College. Kensington University has no classrooms, no laboratories, no dormitories, and its so-called campus is housed in a small Glendale office building in California. Students could earn anything from a bachelor’s degree to a doctorate – all without ever attending a single class or meeting an instructor, awarding inflated credits for “life experience”.

TOURfakeresumes

The California investigation revealed that students were awarded doctorates for four-months of “work”, by reading magazines and writing short reaction papers, according to the California report that resulted in closure of the diploma mill school by Californian authorities in 1996, whereupon it shifted its operations to Hawaii only to be shut down by the authorities there in 2003. It is also illegal in the State of Texas to use a degree from Kensington University.

Other graduates included Florida State Representative Jennifer Caroll, who was forced to resign from the National Commission on Presidential Scholars after being exposed for having a degree from Kensington University.

These revelations have not sufficiently concerned the Pyongyang government from displaying the degree  awarded to Kim Il-sung, which is displayed alongside his embalmed corpse at his mausoleum in Kumsusan Memorial Palace, in Pyongyang.

Along with the fake Kensington University Doctorate degree, displayed also is a peace medal from Japan, which lies next to his “Medal “For the Victory over Japan”” awarded to him by the USSR. The room is dominated by large paintings and photographs of Kim Il-sung meeting various world leaders during their visits to North Korea and during Kim’s trips abroad, most of which have since been violently overthrown and executed by their own people during popular revolutions, including Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, , Nicolai Ceauşescu of Romania, Erich Honecker of East Germany, Gustáv Husák of former Czechoslovakia, Wojciech Jaruzelski of Poland, Todor Zhivkov of Bulgaria, János Kádár of Hungary, Houari Boumediene of Algeria, and Moktar Ould Daddah of Mauritania.

Other leaders featured prominently at his tomb include Yasser Arafat of Palestine, former Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, Konstantin Chernenko, and Mikhail Gorbachev, and other well-known people including Che Guevara, and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Chairman Mao Zedong of China, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and Josip Broz Tito of former Yugoslavia

The 2007 celebration of Kim Il Sung’s birthday, Pyongyang

Also on the tourist itinerary is a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the most heavily mined piece of real estate on earth. The four lane highway typically has virtually no other vehicles. It is in fact a hundred kilometer long military air landing strip.

The leading European tour group is the British, excellently run Koryo Tours (koryogroup.com). Koryo Tours makes very clear what the prerequisites and terms of visiting are. Under a section titled “RULES”, the tour group says: “Please be aware that whilst we do the utmost for our tourists you are under very strict regulations as to what you can and cannot do and this is not negotiable. For example; you are not free to wander around on your own, there are photographic restrictions and video cameras are generally prohibited….WE CANNOT TAKE JOURNALISTS INTO THE DPRK. We therefore ask all journalists to notify us of their position so we can suggest other alternatives.”

They continue: “It is therefore only advisable visiting the DPRK if you can tolerate the following points:

1) In the DPRK you will be under close scrutiny from the guides and security. Use of cameras causes the majority of problems. You can only take a photograph of what the guides allow. The public are obliged to report all photography. Taking photos of soldiers, at check points, poverty, sneaked photos and close ups of people without their express permission will cause serious problems. Photography when being driven around is also restricted….DPRK regulations state that you cannot take a lens over 150 mm into the country.”

2) Leaving the hotel without the guides or the guides’ express permission is not possible. If you are feelng the need for ‘a breath of air’ then a casual stroll along the river is possible but only if accompanied with a guide. It is possible to stroll in the grounds of the hotel but please ask the guide and do not take your camera.

3) We are ‘invited’ to the DPRK and therefore we ask our tourists to respect the Koreans and their vision of the Great Leader – this involves bowing at the 20 meter statue on Mansudae and on various other occasions. Chewing gum, eating sweets and wearing scruffy clothing in places of Korean national importance (such as Mansudae statue to Kim Il Sung, the Friendship Exhibition and Manyongdae birthplace of Kim Il Sung) will offend guides.

The tour company reemphasizes the point again and again: “If any of the above poses a problem it is advisable not to visit the DPRK….”

The number of foreign visitors to the North has grown in the last decade and in 2009, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said “The global popularity of tourism to (North Korea) is booming,” without providing any details or numbers of visitors, citing the reason for the increase as Pyongyang’s “shining, socialist accomplishments” adding “Most tourists gave positive reviews about their experiences in (North Korea) on the internet and other media.”

Here is a list of National holidays:

January 1st – New Year’s Day

February 16th – Comrade Kim Jong Il’s birthday (1942)

April 15th – President Kim Il Sung’s Birthday (1912)

May 1st – May Day, International holiday of Workers

July 8th 1994 (Juche 83)Memorial day of the death of Kim Il Sung

July 27th 1953 Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War 1950-1953)

August 15th – National Liberation Day (1945)

September 9th – Day of the Foundation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (1948)

October 10th – Day of the Foundation of the Workers Party of Korea (1945)

December 27th – Day of the Promulgation of the Socialist Constitution of the DPRK (1972)

And here is the list of government recognized “Major Commemoration Days”.

February 20th – Machine Workers’ Day

March 5th – Farmers’ Day

March 8th – International Women’s Day

March 22nd – Fishermen’s Day

April 5th – Public Health Day

April 6th – Reforestation Day

April 8th – Communications Day

April 25th – Korean People’s Army Day

May 11th – Railway Day

May 15th – Geological Survey Day

May 21st – Builders’ Day

June 1st – International Children’s Day

June 6th – Day of the Foundation of Korean Children’s Union

June 7th – Local Industry Day

July 1st – Miners’ Day

July 7th – Coal-Miners’ Day

August 10th – Forestry Workers’ Day

August 20th – Air Force Day

August 28th – Navy Day and Youth Day

September 5th – City Administration Day

September 15th – Commerce Day

October 9th – Metal Workers’ Day

October 14th – Broadcasting Workers’ Day

October 15th – Textile Industry Day

November 1st – Press Day

November 16th – Land and Marine Transport Day

December 6th – Chemical Industry Day

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