Interview with Ieng Sary
Australia’s ABC television network was among a select group of journalists invited
to interview Khmer Rouge breakaway leader Ieng Sary, and his two immediate subordinates
Y Chhean and Sok Pheap, on August 28, near Malai. The following is a full translated
transcript of the 80-minute conference.
Respected ladies and gentlemen.
Today I invited (you) to interview me in a spirit that you want to help us to put
an end to the war which is still flaring in our country. Today I am happy to warmly
welcome you all to our liberated zone.
First of all I would like to inform you about my decision to break away from the
dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen.
This decision is not a tactical move aimed at returning power. It came from a swell(ing),
steaming movement of the masses of both combatants and people who have undergone
war for many years and who aspire to see the end to the war in order to realize the
national reconciliation and national unity and national reconstruction.
We are of an opinion that if Khmer and Khmer continue to shed their own blood, our
nation will be reduced to nothing. But the dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok,
Son Sen continues to wage this endless war.
As a patriot, I cannot accept this kind of situation. This is the reason that led
to break away from the dictatorial group of Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen to form the
Democratic National United Movement (DNUM).
Secondly, the objective of DNUM is to put an end to the war, with an aim to realize
national reconciliation, national unity and national reconstruction under a democratic
regime. In order to reach this objective which is the deep-rooted aspiration of our
combatants and the people, all Khmer, all factions have to negotiate without being
winners, losers, or traitors.
Thirdly, we have to stand on the factual situation of the process of our country’s
development. It is not realistic to bring our combatants and people to surrender.
Our combatnts and people can never accept (this) eventuality because they have struggled
for many years for the cause of their beloved motherland.
Fourthly, the current situation in our country is very complicated that we must add
no more complexity to this already complicated situation. First of all, the bloodshed
between Khmer and Khmer must be stopped and unite all Khmer to cooperate in defending
and build an independent, peaceful, unified and democratic Cambodia under the umbrella
within the framework of Monarchy which has lasted since the Angkor era. The monarchy
must be preserved and accompanied by a democratic regime according to the development
of our country and all the countries in the world.
Fifth, I give you the interview because I consider you all our friends who desire
that peace should be restored and national reconciliation and national union be realized
in our country.
I would like to add that you all have freedom to express your opinion on what you
see and how you will write. But I would like to appeal to you all that our country
is under a bloody war without any chance for construction. So whatever you are going
to write, don’t expand and aggravate the bloodshed to destroy our country.
Q: What exactly do you want from the Royal Cambodian Government in exchange
for (this) split and what are your conditions?
A: I’d like to inform all of you that our main requests are peace, national
reconciliation and putting an end to the war. The main request, (the) objective,
is to end the war.
Q: Will you be seeking to form a political party inside the country for the
next election and will you maintain control of your own zone in Phnom Malai and Pailin?
Regarding this issue, we have the zone controlled by us from Malai to Pailin.
This region is inhabited by our people and our army for many years already and we
want it (the zone to) be maintained by our army while it is integrated entirely into
the national framework of the government.
Q: Will you be forming a party to participate in the next election?
Presently, we have created a movement called DNUM. This movement will make its
best for the national healing to be materialized.
Q: Shall we understand this movement means a political party?
We had a lot of thought before deciding to call it a movement.
Q: How about the next election, will this movement attend the next election
This issue requires us to talk how to end the war as quick as we can because in
our opinion it is vital for our nation. So the position of Mr. Y Chhean and Sok Pheap
is the same as mine which is how to end the war without any fighting to be launched
from now until a complete solution can be reached. So now we are looking at many
issues in the coming one or two years but we will see how the situation develops.
Q: What is the single most important thing to end the fighting?
In our opinion, all Khmer, all factions must negotiate. Without negotiation, without
trying to understand each others’ hearts, there remain accusations, counter-accusations
and suspicions and by that the war, (we) can see no end to it.
Q: Could Pol Pot and his hardline faction ever join you now ?
Concerning this question, I had discussed this issue with them for many years
but they adamantly continue to wage the war until they win. I was convinced that
I was unable to persuade them. I made statements – I’m not sure if you have seen
them or not since August 15 – that I cut myself (off) from Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Son Sen
to form this movement. If they – but I don’t hope either – want to negotiate for
peace, I don’t have any objection. Through experience of many years of struggle together,
any expectation that this bunch will return to negotiation is impossible. Since the
beginning, I never declared resigning from politics or the leadership. But Ta Mok,
Pol Pot, Nuon Chea used to make that statement [resigning from politics] but in reality
they continue to work in politics. I do according to what I say.
Q: Do you have the intention to join Phnom Penh government?
After some exchanges of view, we’ve seen that there are many possibilities in
Q: Before or after the election?
It’s too early to say that now.
Q: Are you seeking a position in the government before the election?
On this issue, I wait to negotiate [with the government].
Q: What will be the condition to join the Phnom Penh government?
We are now discussing this matter.
Q: Now the Phnom Penh government has stated that they are ready to give Your
Excellency amnesty. So is amnesty one of the conditions to join the government?
I have (made) no mistakes for them to excuse me.
Q: You were said to be Mr Pol Pot’s right-hand man during the Pol Pot regime,
where so many people died from massacre or starvation or something like that. Do
you take that kind of responsibility?
I am not the right hand of Pol Pot. Obviously, the main right-hand man
is Nuon Chea. And there was a committee which considered all questions about security,
which comprised four people: Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, and Son Sen’s advisor Yun
Yat. All decisions were made by the committee of the four. The evacuation of the
people from the cities did not involve my participation in the decision. Because
on 23 April, 1975 I got off the plane from Peking and I saw the town had already
been deserted of its inhabitants. Everything was already decided and it was not worth
talking about it. But frankly speaking, in 1974 I talked with Pol Pot that taking
people out of Stung Treng and Kratie was easy because there weren’t many people,
but evacuating people out of Phnom Penh would not be so easy, everything must be
throughly arranged because there were millions of people. I am very regretful for
the deaths of the intellectuals because I was the one who gathered them to come to
help build the country. In 1979 when I attended UN General Assembly, some Cambodian
refugees saw me and said that I was the first to be killed. I would like to speak
my honesty on this matter. Why did I not talk about this since the beginning? Because
it was the reason of solidarity in the period of struggle. Now they’ve accused me
of being a traitor and I must make everything clear.
Q: Was there anything that you knew at the time about the executions, about
the purging inside the party, things that you know perhaps personally?
Pol Pot is very intelligent to form a secret committee. Sometimes they already
excuted the people then he told me.
Q: During the Pol Pot regime Your Excellency was deputy Prime Minister and
I think it was a very important post? Were you able to ask Pol Pot not to [kill people]?
I have quite a lot of children. They were sent into the jungle to collect traditional
medicine. When they returned they told me “Father, the people are starving,
most of them had only borbor to eat.” I had gone to talk with Pol Pot but he
replied to me that I was attacking my own regime. So, after returning from a trip
outside [the country] I had no idea if I would be taken to prison or not. The government
at that time was just nominal; although there might be a government it was meaningless,
everything was managed by the party. Freedom – even for myself as a foreign minister
going abroad – there had to be regulation (as) to what extent could I work or say.
The government at that time had only the name, without any content. In reality in
Anlong Veng, the so-called Provisional Government of National Salvation does have
no right whatsoever.
Q: You knew nothing about the execution of those intellectuals because there
is a case often brought up in publicity?
I was not aware of this problem. When they [intellectuals] got off the plane,
they were taken to different places. I myself had no knowledge about this. Even my
brother-in-law and mother-in-law arrived without my knowldge. Only when my brother-in-law
died did I know that he had died. There was no serious illness.
Q: Is Pol Pot still alive?
To my knowledge, he is presently alive and living in Anlong Veng. I have not seen
Pol Pot for more than three years already.
Q: But is Pol Pot dead, do we know?
To my knowledge, he is alive. Because as far as the distortion against me is concerned,
it is Pol Pot, (and) no-one else [who did it].
Q: Who has the the strongest force now?
As I can see now Pol Pot is alone with that government and another part is Ta
Mok and Nuon Chea in Samlot.
Q: Are all of them one force?
They can be together and can contact each other by telephone.
Q: Is Khieu Samphan sympathetic to Your Excellency or he is a supporter of
It is hard for me to say about this because he is already with Pol Pot. He doesn’t
enjoy any great deal of freedom either.
Q: Does Pol Pot still have the real power in the DK?
As I can see before he did have real power and for that power he wanted it applied
in the most dictatorial way on regions 450 Malai and 415 Pailin through Son Sen.
Q: So, he is still the leader of the KR?
As we can see, more and more people defy his direction. Because the people have
seen the accusations against 450 and 415 and against myself, so there is nothing
for them to believe in anymore…
Q: There is a law outlawing you right now in Cambodia, do you want that law
repealed as a condition to talk to the government. I know it is sensitive but could
we have a good idea of some more conditions which you are discussing?
I don’t know what kind of government you’re talking about because at that time
the Yuon installed it and it prosecuted [us]. What kind was that government? How
about the war?
Q: What is the future of your soldiers who will join the government soon?
For this matter, you’d better ask Mr. Chhean and Sok Pheap. In my view, there
must be proper conditions before negotation can produce a satisfactory result…
acceptable to us.
Q: Does that mean you will keep a separate force or will you join the Royal
We are negotiating this issue.
Q: But you want to maintain your area, your own force and then cooperate with
the government or join the government completely?
We are negotiating this issue.
Q: Do you have any intention to go back to Phnom Penh?
I can live anywhere but I ask to be with my army and my people because I love
Q: Does it mean that you will remain around this area?
Q: I saw in the town, in the market many people were buying some goods, vegetables,
people are smiling, they want to have opportunity to do business. Is it your policy?
During the past years, especially starting from a few months ago in May, June,
July everything including the people’s oxcarts were expropriated. So, the people
became anguished, very angry and now oxcarts and cars have been given back to them.
The people are happy and they want it like that but we also don’t want to see anarchy
Q: Thank you for allowing us to visit Malai but can we ask when can we visit
Let’s see the development [of the negotiations] and we will arrange for you to
visit, maybe in 15 days.
Q: Is there still a problem militarily in Pailin?
[Y Chhean’s voice] There is no problem in Pailin but in the south of it there
is some problem but not very serious.
Q: Do you expect Pol Pot to send forces against you?
[Pheap’s voice] He sent them here but they couldn’t fight us. The people are chasing
them now. [Ieng Sary’s voice] Not the people in Malai but the people of 519 who fought
Q: Since you left Phnom Pen in 1979, the world has changed. China cut support
for your faction, China itself introduced a market economy system. How do you see
this kind of change?
[Ieng Sary’s voice] I accept a democratic regime. I do not add “liberal”
but I accept democracy like that being applied in Japan. Like in Singapore and Thailand,
they practice that [democracy] and we want to do the same.
Q: What has been changed in your mind? Before, I hoped, you were hardline communist
but now you seem to have changed. What is changed?
I was born a Khmer national. So, whatever regime is seen as leading the Khmer
nation toward progress and solidarity, I accept it. So, since 1963 I have had a dispute
with Pol Pot. I saw that in that circumstance political struggle was still possible
in Phnom Penh without the need for us going into the jungle. Although there were
people who opposed us and wanted to kill us but the regime was still ruled by Samdech
Norodom Sihanouk who still had some separation rather and who did not opt to a general
killing. Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Son Sen said “it was impossible to stay [in Phnom
Penh], we all will have our throats slashed, killed if we show our faces”.
Q: So, is this the end of the Khmer Rouge, are you still Khmer Rouge?
I have never been Khmer Rouge (Ieng Sary said with laughter). Samdech [Sihanouk]
named us Khmer Rouge.
Q: You see what I mean as the unity is still Democratic Kampuchea or this is
the end of Democratic Kampuchea?
In my view, it is the beginning of the end. If we negotiate successfully with
a good result, that means the end [of the KR]. But if the negotiation is fruitless,
that means the KR still exists but it’s broken.
Like in the statements I have made, there are no tactics hidden but it is simply
that the time for the breaking up has arrived.
Q: Can we see Your Excellency next week?
We will see. I’m quite busy.
Source: Phnom Penh Post