News

    Khmer Rouge Guerrillas Emerge After 25 Years of Self-Imposed Exile

    In 1979 a small group of Khmer Rouge soldiers abandoned its post and walked into Cambodia's jungle carrying nothing more than some basic supplies.  In an extraordinary tale of survival the soldiers managed to survive 25 years before returning to civilization earlier this month.

    Mon Rae was only 13 when he joined the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia as a child soldier in the 1970s.  Two years later he fled his post, and Cambodian society, as the Khmer Rouge's murderous communist regime crumbled and lost power.  Carrying what they could Mon Rae and a small group of other soldiers and their families made their way into the most remote parts of uninhabited jungle in northeastern Cambodia. 

    Roughly 25 years later, Mon Rae, now 40, his wife Aat and their seven children, along with the other families who fled, emerged earlier this month from their long isolation.

    In an exclusive interview, Mon Rae tells VOA's Khmer Service about his life on the run.

    He says after their clothing wore out they used tree bark and leaves for clothes.  While walking in the jungle, they sometimes found old clothes and old shoes that they would pick up and share with each other and their children.  Sickness and hunger were common.

    They ate what fruits and plants they could gather.  The only meat they ate was from animals they caught in traps.  The only medicine they had were herbal remedies brewed from roots and leaves.

    According to Greg Stanton, director of the Cambodian Genocide Project and president of Genocide Watch, Mon Rae and his group weren't the only Cambodians to flee into the forests.

    "The Khmer Rouge fled when the Vietnamese invaded in Christmas 1978 and took control of Cambodia," noted Mr. Stanton.  " So a lot of Khmer Rouge fled up into border areas and were in the border areas for 15 or more years in many cases.  In fact, there wasn't really peace until about 1998 when all of these groups gave up their arms and surrendered."

    During the 25 years that Mon Rae and the others lived in the jungle, they avoided all contact with other humans.  As their numbers grew to more than 30 and the struggle to survive became more challenging, Mon Rae says they decided it was time to come out of the jungle.   When they emerged, they were unaware that the Khmer Rouge had fallen from power and that its leader, Pol Pot, was dead.

    The former refugees, all members of the Krung ethnic minority, have settled in a small village in an undeveloped part of the Ratanakkiri province, about 400 kilometers northeast of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.  Mon Rae says he is happy to be back in society.

    He says his family is happy living in society.  One day he would like to be able to afford some of the comforts of modern life such as a car and a house.  He also wants his children to go to school to learn how to read and write.

    Mon Rae says he was forced to join the Khmer Rouge as a child.  According to Greg Stanton with the Cambodian Genocide Project, the Khmer Rouge routinely engaged in forced conscription of children under the age of 15. 

    "The Khmer Rouge especially used child soldiers to carry out their killing," added Mr. Stanton.  "They found that they could get children to do things they just couldn't get adults to do.  In fact, they had whole training programs in which they first got the children to torture and kill small animals and then they sort of moved up to human beings.  So actually, a lot of teenagers were used as guards and soldiers by the Khmer Rouge."

    The radical communist Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.  An estimated two million Cambodians were killed or died of starvation, disease or overwork during this time.  Although the most famous Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, died in 1998, many of the leaders are still alive, but aging. 

    Last year the United Nations and Cambodia announced that they had agreed to put former leaders of the Khmer Rouge on trial for genocide. 

    The tribunals will not prosecute lower-level foot soldiers, like Mon Rae, who is adamant that he did not commit any atrocities.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora