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9/ Kiernan protests. May 1995.



Wall Street Journal,

New York, New York. 15 May 1995

FAX: (212) 416 2658

It is a simple matter to outline my seventeen-year record of documenting the crimes of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime. This record was recognized as early as 1981 by Barry Wain, editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal, who described my estimate of over 1,5 million dead as "the most authoritative independent assessment" of the toll under Pol Pot (The Refused; The Agony of the Indochina Refugees, p. 272). Yet Stephen Morris and Gerard Henderson (WSJ, 15 May 1995) continue seriously to misrepresent my work.

Even after being challenged by me (WSJ, 28 April 1995), Mr. Morris again fails to offer any citation for a quotation he repeatedly and falsely attributes to me, that the Eastern Zone Cambodian communists were "good Khmer Rouge" (the quotation marks are his). Many Cambodians have made such a point, but not all, and I have preferred to note that it is usually a relative judgement. In fact, I am the only scholar who has documented atrocities in the Eastern Zone. I analysed in detail the range of evidence not only in Revolution and Its Aftermath in Kampuchea (New Haven, Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1983), but also in Cambodia: The Eastern Zone Massacre (Columbia University, Center for the Study of Human Rights, 1986).

Then, in "Kampuchea's Ethnic Chinese Under Pol Pot: A Case of Systematic Social Discrimination" (Journal of Contemporary Asia, 1, 1986), I again detailed repression and hardship in the East, including Cambodian testimony that the Eastern Zone Khmer Rouge were 'no good' (pp. 23-4). I returned to this theme in "Orphans of Genocide: The Cham Muslims of Kampuchea Under Pol Pot" (Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, October 1988), in which I studied the 1975 massacres of Chams, stating that 'the troops involved in the various incidents of repression have not been identified. They would have been Eastern Zone troops.' I then outlined and weighed the evidence for different Eastern units (p. 13). My translation of a Pol Pot central document authorizing political murder in the Zones can be found in Pol Pot Plans the Future: Confidential Leadership Documents from Democratic Kampuchea, 1976-1977 (Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1988, p. 3).

Further evidence of Eastern Zone massacres is in my chapter, 'Genocidal Targeting: Two Groups of Victims in Pol Pot's Cambodia,' in State-Organized Terror (Westview, Boulder, 1991). Morris owes me an apology for his outlandish claim that 'Since 1979, Kiernan has worked tirelessly as the academic world's defence lawyer for what he considers the good Khmer Rouge of the Eastern Zone' (WSJ, 17 April 1995).

lnterestingly, Morris himself spent most of the 1980s vociferously supporting lies of Pol Pot in what he acknowledged was a Khmer Rouge-dominated coalition (New York Times, 15 December 1982). In 1990, Morris argued for the inclusion and appeasement of the Khmer Rouge in the peace process, blindly predicting: 'The real Khmer Rouge military aim is to force Phnom Penh to accept a comprehensive political settlement such as the UN peace plan,' which he asserted 'will end the war' in Cambodia (New Republic, 4 June 1990, and Boston Globe. 7 August 1990) Though averse to admitting error, he could not have been more wrong, as subsequent events have shown. I quoted Morris' views s in Genocide and Democracy in Cambodia: The Khmer Rouge, the United Nations, and the International Community (Yale Southeast Asia Studies, 1993).

In both the Melbourne Age (11 October 1994) and Brisbane Courier-Mail (21 April 1995), Gerard Henderson has alleged that in 1975, I "suggested that 'worthy Khmers" was a more appropriate title than 'Khmer Rouge'." But I actually wrote: "A leftist I spoke to recently in Phnom Penh rejected the terms 'Khmer Viet Minh,' 'Khmer Communiste', and even 'Khmer Rouge,' as descriptions of Khieu Samphan and his associates. He suggested I refer to them as 'Khmers dignes' or 'worthy Khmers'." In the same paragraph I had called Khieu Samphan 'almost xenophobic' (Dyason House Papers, June 1975, emphasis added). Henderson's duplicity here is straightforward.

It is always reassuring when one's critics need to rewrite evidence to make their case. I recall Henderson's invention of my alleged 'visit' to Pol Pot's closed regime (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 February 1990). And his poor memory: "I am not aware of one Cambodian specialist who opposed Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge before Vietnam's conquest of Phnom Penh', in 1979, The fact is that I did. In a 1978 articles 'Why's Kampuchea Gone to Pot ?', I stated that 'refugees report widespread purges' and executions, and that the strength of 'domestic opposition' had led to 'more wide ranging purges'. I added that 'Pol Pot is after unchallenged authority', pursuing 'a chauvinism that demands big continuing sacrifices from the people to build a powerful state', while 'many peasants and peasant cadres have been repressed.' I also noted: 'Nearly all public positions are now held by the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary group, their wives, or people unknown to outsiders' (Nation Review, Melbourne, 17 November 1978). I corrected Henderson's errors (Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 1990). Instead of apologising, he prefers further falsehoods, now asserting (with Morris) that I 'did not come out explicitly against Pol Pot until 1979.'

Obviously, such assertions are easy to refute. The question is why these people with no credibility are taken seriously by anyone. Morris, for instance, has no scholarly publications, and an impressive track record of seeing his accusations exposed as groundless (WSJ, 5 June 1990 and 28 April 1995). It is not surprising that despite his trumpeted Harvard affiliation, he has never held a faculty position.

Ben Kiernan,

Associate Professor of History, and

Director, Cambodian Genocide Program,

Yale University.


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