Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

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Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by Kung-fu Hillbilly » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:46 pm

Image
Hostages Jean-Michel Braquet, Mark Slater, and David Wilson

Outside magazine,
September 1995


After releasing most of the passengers, they marched off into the jungle with some 20 hostages--including the three backpackers--and headed for their base at Phnom Vour

In the café of the Capitol Hotel, a graying heap of concrete near Phnom Penh's Russian Market, scruffy Western travelers hoist bottles of Angkor beer, scribble in their notebooks, and trade banter with the pedicab drivers, bar girls, and beggars who spill in from the teeming sidewalks to work their hustles. It's a familiar setting to anyone who's traveled in Asia

In the previous year and a half, the train from Phnom Penh to Kampot had been sacked in 18 separate ambushes as it chuffed along the edge of the Elephant Mountains. Passengers had been robbed, kidnapped, and killed in these attacks, which were staged both by Khmer Rouge guerrillas and by "bandits"--a word generally used in Cambodia to denote undisciplined government soldiers who use their office as a license for thuggery.

The train that Braquet, Slater, and Wilson boarded at the Phnom Penh station around dawn on July 26 of last year was a typically ominous example of Cambodian rolling stock--armor-plated and pocked with rusty gouges left by bullets and shrapnel. Two flatbed cars, fronted with a crude steel plow, were pushed ahead of the locomotive to absorb the explosion in the event that the track should be mined. Machine-gun nests were installed on the roof, where the trio perched for the view. A dozen or more members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, toting AK-47s, mingled with the passengers above and below.

By all accounts, the three were having a grand ride as the train worked its way south. They kicked back on the roof, passed a few joints, and watched the rainy-season landscape slide by--hours of rice paddies picketed with towering sugar palms.Then the flat land began to lift on either side of the track, narrowing to a valley near Kampong Trach, where all the past ambushes on the train had occurred. It was here that the local passengers began to pray.

The guerrillas boarded the train, sweeping through the cars, taking whatever they could lay their hands on: motorbikes, rice, jewelry, cash, cigarettes, chickens, pigs--everything but the clothes on the passengers' backs. They loaded their booty onto bullock carts and then built a campfire and cooked themselves dinner from their spoils.

In the midst of the shelling, a reporter from London's Sunday Times managed to arrange a radio conversation with the hostages. "It is as if they are bombing to kill us," Mark Slater said in that August 19 interview. "We hear...heavy machine-gun fire, mortars...rockets. We jump in the trenches and we are so, so scared."

Braquet got on the line and said, "Our hope is just falling every day. It is a very difficult situation to handle even if you are a strong person." Braquet had contracted malaria at Phnom Vour, and he was also suffering from an infected leg wound received when he stepped on a sharpened bamboo stake--a booby trap. "We are going to die here," he said. "I am too young to die. I am an innocent person."

One night at the FCC, as scores of lizards skittered over the yellow stucco walls to the beat of Van Morrison, I sat with Nate Thayer, the Cambodia correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review. A native New Englander, Thayer is widely regarded as one of the most knowledgeable observers of Cambodian affairs. He has a shiny, shaved scalp, a close-cropped beard, and narrow blue eyes. There is an air of carefully cultivated mystery about him; his mobile telephone is stamped with the WORDS BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY ON THIS PHONE. Throughout our conversation he spat Copenhagen snuff juice into an Orange Crush can.

As the Cambodian army increased the intensity of its attack, a new tape recording of Mark Slater circulated in Phnom Penh. "If the governments won't pay for our release," he begged, "please do the moral thing and give our families the opportunity to arrange our release."

He had followed some truck tracks leading from Noun Paet's house to a small hill nearby, where he recognized an unwholesome smell. "The French guy," he said, "was tied with his arms behind his back, and the back of his neck was chopped in. The two others had been shot." Soth Hing rubbed the stump of his leg. "I think it was very hard for them--so far from home, not accustomed to living in the jungle like a Cambodian."

full https://www.outsideonline.com/1840031/death-ruins
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by j57 » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:50 pm

i sure enjoy your posts.
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:56 pm

No Negociation, No Ransom, the book:
post135865.html?hilit=Braquet,%20Slater ... in#p135865
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by John Bingham » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:09 pm

A few years ago I was sitting at the local beer shop with some local friends. Most of these guys were in the PRK military, or Heng Samrin soldiers as they usually describe themselves. They introduced me to someone I hadn't met before. He was introduced as a Pol Pot soldier. Everyone was getting on fine, no animosity. I chatted with the Pol Pot soldier and asked him where he had been based in the early 90s. He said Kampot, so I asked him if he was at Phnom Voar. He was surprised I knew the place and said that was where he was based. I asked him about the tourists who were killed. He said that was nothing to do with him, he was based on the other side of the mountain! Anyway we had a good chat and he gave me his card for the NGO he had set up.
What happened there was tragic, but the train was regularly being attacked at that time and the foreigners were advised against using it. A large number of locals were killed when the train the foreigners was in was attacked. The kidnapping and executions did bring international attention to the fact that UNTAC had failed to bring peace to Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge moved into many areas in the early 90s that they hadn't had much of a presence in since 1979. It wasn't till more than 5 years after UNTAC left that a long-lasting peace was achieved. The period we are in is the longest period of peace Cambodia has had in centuries.
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by SternAAlbifrons » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:32 pm

I will never forget the local KR commander Chhouk Rin's shit-eating grin. Creep.
Pol Pot's beatific smile on steroids.

Chhouk Rin is a former Khmer Rouge commander. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of three tourists, Australian David Wilson, 29, Briton Mark Slater, 28, and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27 at Phnom Voar in 1994.
In 2005, he escaped to Phnom Penh where he evaded capture because he believed that Sam Bith and Nuon Paet are the guilty ones. After he was captured, he lost an appeal to overturn the ruling that sentenced him to life imprisonment in Prey Sar prison (wiki)
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by John Bingham » Thu Dec 05, 2019 8:59 pm

I don't think it's fair that commanders like Nuon Paet and Chhouk Rin were prosecuted. No other commanders at that level were brought before any court and prosecuted like they were. They were operating on direct orders from Brother No 1. And it seems a case is building against Meas Mut. What do these all have in common? They were directly involved in the deaths of foreigners.
Hailed for encouraging mass defections among his former guerrilla comrades in the south, hated by Western governments who want him behind bars, Chhouk Rin was
formally commissioned a Royal Army officer on Dec 28. He told Jason Barber, Ros Sokhet and Matthew Graiger about his life, his battles and the hostages.

CHHOUK Rin should be dead. After 24 years with the Khmer Rouge, he bears his credentials as a fighter - a lucky one - on his body. Dozens of scars,

gouges and mutilations cover him from head to toe.

Ask him how many times he has been injured, he replies uncertainly: "I can not remember, it's been so many times - nearly 100 times?"

He rolls up his left trouser leg, revealing an angry, inch-wide and deep gash from knee to groin, the relic of a battle almost 20 years ago. "Automatic gun," he says by

way of explanation. His right thigh is almost identically savaged, and half his left foot is missing from a landmine blast. He bows his head to show scars,
the tiny to the big, from battles remembered or forgotten. His hands

bear almost perfectly round spots where bullets have passed through them, and other scars work their way up his arms. His cheek bears a puckered blemish where

a bullet shaved his flesh.

He points his finger like the barrel of a pistol, jabbing it up and down his body, tracing where bullets and shrapnel have hit home.

When Colonel Chhouk Rin-who has fought the Vietnamese and a series of Cambodian regimes, served as a Major under Pol Pot's "liberated"

Cambodia, helped command more than a decade of terrorist missions from one of the KR's strongest bases and,

most recently, abducted three foreigners to their deaths - tells you he knows how to fight, you believe him.

He talks with pride but without a trace of arrogance. "I have studied in actual

war.... I cannot say I am skillful, but I can solve problems," he says obliquely.

Today, the former commander of Regiment 402 of the Democratic Kampuchea Army

(Khmer Rouge) "solves problems" for the Royal Government of Cambodia.

A lieutenant colonel in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces - he lost half a rank

from that of a full KR colonel - the most celebrated and controversial of recent

KR turncoats has already had a formidable effect among his former

comrades-in-arms.



https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/ ... -terrorist
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by phuketrichard » Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:24 pm

reissued as; "Crisis in Cambodia"
Despite the, ‘No Negotiation No Ransom’, policy most believed Australia’s Foreign Minister would utilize his contacts in the Royal Cambodian Army and his relationship with Cambodia’s Prime Minister to assist with the negotiations. He refused to become involved however and it created a public outcry and national media condemnation in his home country.

Then after a thirteen year Coronial Inquest the Australian government was cleared of any culpability in the David Wilson kidnap case in 2013. What no one realised at the time of the hostage crisis was the full complexity of the situation or that two powerful nations were pulling strings in the background.
Cambodia’s Prime Minister was a former Khmer Rouge Officer who was being backed by the newly unified country of Vietnam. And the American CIA was using the United Nations to shield Pol Pot from war crime investigations so they could use him to bring down the governments Vietnamese administrators.
Caught in the middle of the Australian politicians diplomatic grandstanding and Cambodia’s political turmoil were three young backpackers who were foolish enough to catch a train to a war zone.
https://booksaboutcambodia.com/book-cat ... colm-scott
In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely. HST
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by John Bingham » Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:31 pm

Cambodia’s Prime Minister was a former Khmer Rouge Officer who was being backed by the newly unified country of Vietnam. And the American CIA was using the United Nations to shield Pol Pot from war crime investigations so they could use him to bring down the governments Vietnamese administrators.
That sounds like a description straight from 1982 Western propaganda, and has very little relevance in what was going on in 1994.
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by SternAAlbifrons » Thu Dec 05, 2019 9:42 pm

I acknowledge that point of view JB, and can accept it - but differ strongly myself.

Carrying out orders is not a valid excuse for murder in times of conflict. Generally accepted international law says so very clearly.
Besides, this was at a time when KR could claim no legitimacy as a fighting force in a conflict situation. By this point they were simply rebels against a recognised, legitimate regime.
Also, this crime was committed with the world watching - "all similar crimes are equal" is BS. Symbolically it is important that justice is seen to be done in cases like this. They set the tone for the world.

Conflating this case (killing foreigners) with the issue of not having the same justice for killers of cambodians, has relevance in a wider context but does not in any way ameliorate the guilt of these guys.

I had two friends murdered under the direct orders (i believe) of Meas Muth - former KR Naval chief.
I do not want him tried for that reason. i am very clear about that in myself, i am not vindictive.
To me, it is a crucial issue of international law.
International law is largely formed, and given current validity - according to actual practice. If a law or principle is not exercised, it is judged not to be part of the current applicable canon.

To me - it is really important to establish that top heads of the military should not be able to use the "only under political orders" card.
If the top Admirals and Generals are not expected to draw the line - against orders from madmen - NObody has that responsibility.

I can not stress how important, and valid, this attempted prosecution is to many war crimes scholars and practitioners for this reason. It would clearly establish that the generals must say - No!
But unfortunately a trial for Meas Muth is unlikely to happen (99.8%)
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Re: Death in the Ruins. (Long Read)

Post by Pizzalover » Fri Dec 06, 2019 1:35 pm

The argument of acting under orders was regularly employed by Nazi judges turned federal judges in Germany in the 1950s. As a rule they acquitted those accused of crimes under a combination of 'acting under orders' and assumed 'threat of execution' if not obliging. Problem was that there is no documentation for any such case. It was made up by the same Nazis who run the NS 'legal' system before 45.

Later criminals got convicted in cases were their immediate participation could not be demonstrated, i.e. pulling the trigger. They were so on grounds of membership in the organization. Thus, it does no longer matter who in the unit operated the machine gun. Staying guard 1 km away constitutes murder in such cases. Unfortunately, the change in law came way too late for the vast majority of culprits.

Personally, I am somewhat surprised at the benefit of doubt reasoning concerning Khmer Rouge members.
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