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.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs