The Khmer Rouge Canon 1975-1979 - [PDF Document] (2024)

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    THE KHMER ROUGE CANON 1975-1979:

    The Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia

    Sophal Ear

    Department of Political Science

    University of California, Berkeley

    Ronald E. McNair Scholar

    Academic Achievement Division

    FAX: 775-878-0116

    E-mail: [emailprotected]


    May 1995

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    There can be no doubt but that this thesis would not have beenpossible without the contributions

    of the following people. I am delighted to acknowledge theircontributions to this thesis .

    For help in the early research phase of this thesis, I wouldlike to thank Professor Ben Kiernan of Yale

    University, Professor Laura Summers of the University of Hull,and University of California Indochina

    Archive Director Douglas Pike.

    For research suggestions, materials, and references, I ameternally grateful to Professor David P. Chandler of

    Monash University and my dear friend Bruce Sharp. They were bothalways ready to help, and only an e-

    mail away.

    I am especially grateful to archivist Steve Denney of theIndochina Archive for showing me the Cambodian

    vault and referring me to the Chomsky-Lacouture Controversy overa year ago. Steve’s great advice wasubiquitous throughout thisproject.

    For constructive criticism on an earlier draft of this thesis, Iam indebted to Dr. Marc Pizzaro and Andy Lei.

    Last, but not least, this political science honors thesis wouldnot have been possible without the great

    inspiration of my advisor, political science Professor AnthonyJames Gregor.

    Although each of these contributors helped the final product,they are in no way responsible for the views

    expressed or the mistakes made by the author. The author aloneis solely responsible for those.

    Sophal Ear

    Oakland, California


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    How many of those who say they are unreservedly in supportof the Khmer revolution would consent

    to endure one hundredth part of the present sufferings of theCambodian people?

    --François Ponchaud, 19771

    So concludes François Ponchaud’s Cambodia: Year Zero, the firstbook to detail the “assassination

    of a people” being perpetrated in the name of socialistrevolution in Cambodia. Hundreds of other books

    and articles on Cambodia have been published since 1977. Manyhave focused on the period during which

    the Red Cambodians or “Khmer Rouge” controlled the country whichthey renamed “Democratic

    Kampuchea” between 1975 and 1978. Under the Khmer Rouge,hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died

    from execution, forced labor, disease and starvation. Since itwill never be possible to ascertain the exact

    number of deaths, estimates fall on a range. Michael Vickeryestimates 750,000 deaths,2while Ben Kiernan

    adds to that another 800,000. Karl Jackson puts the figure near1.3 million,3while the Campaign to Oppose

    the Return of the Khmer Rouge (CORKR) claims at least 1.5million deaths. The Khmer revolution was

    perhaps the most pernicious in history; reversing classorder, destroying all markets, banning private

    property and money. It is one worth studying for the ages,not for what it accomplished, but for what it


    The idea for this thesis grew from research into Cambodia’seconomic development and history for

    a simultaneous economics honors thesis.4In particular, a1979 book entitled Kampuchea: Rationale for a

    Rural Policy by Malcolm Caldwell, was my first glimpse into acommunity of academics, I had no idea

    existed. To be sure, this community was not some extreme“fringe” faction of Cambodian scholars, but

    virtually all of them.5In other words, their view of theKhmer revolution ergo the Khmer Rouge, became the

    1Ponchaud, Cambodia: Year Zero (1978), p. 193.

    2Vickery, Cambodia: 1975-1982 (1984), p. 187.

    3Jackson, ed., Cambodia: 1975-1978, p. 3. He footnotes onthe same page that this estimate “assumes

    600,000-700,000 war-related deaths before the Khmer Rougevictory and a middle range-estimate of 5.8

    million survivors at the beginning of 1979.” (Jackson, p.3n)4This thesis, entitled “Cambodia’s Economic Developmentand History: A Contribution to the Study of

    Cambodia’s Economy,” is available from the Academic AchievementDivision, UC Berkeley.5With the notable exceptions of MalcolmCaldwell (b. 1931), Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) and perhaps Edward

    Herman, these scholars were baby boomers who were either ingraduate school or lecturing there. To put it

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    fueled anti-revolutionary propaganda against the Khmer Rouge bythe media. Together with Edward S.

    Herman, Chomsky published an article in mid-1977 intheNation , entitled “Distortions at Fourth Hand” that

    became the centerpiece of his argument against the media’sfrenzyover Pol Pot.10

    Two years later, after the

    Pol Pot-Ieng Sary regime was toppled by Vietnam, theNationarticle was followed by a book that continued

    to express doubt about the truthfulness of “alleged” Khmer Rougecrimes.

    Between 1975 and 1979, “the movement of solidarity with thepeoples of Kampuchea and Indochina

    as a whole”11

    as described by of one of its members, Gavin McCormick,vociferously defended the

    Kampuchean revolution and its perpetrators. To be sure, therehave been very few articles or books on this

    topic, since it is so unpleasant for those Ponchaud bluntlycharacterized as “unreservedly in support of the

    Khmer revolution,” to be reminded of their responsibility inwhat Jean Lacouture has called “the murder of a

    people.” The study of this movement is considered by some,especially those who continue to support

    Chomsky, to be wholly outside Cambodian studies. They suggestthat it is more in line with American

    studies since Chomsky attacked the Western media’s propagandamachine as it gravitated around the “evils

    of communism.”

    This thesis seeks to dispel this mitigating advance in favor ofa wider Canon for pro-Khmer Rouge

    literature published between 1975 and 1979. “The Khmer RougeCanon 1975-1979,” unlike other canons, is

    not an official list of works in this case, since noone has ever agreed to one (Carney’s list is a small

    exception). For a work to be listed and reviewed in the “KhmerRouge Canon” requires that it have been

    written in the period 1975 to 1979 and, of course, havesupported, whether explicitly or implicitly, the policies

    of the Khmer Rouge (hence the inclusion of Chomsky’s andHerman’s work). A second criterion involves

    the nature of the publication, namely print; the work must havebeen published in a reasonably well-known

    English-language periodical (Current History, the Nation ,etc.), a monograph (Malcolm Cadwell’s South-

    East Asia by Cook University), or a book (Cambodia: Starvationand Revolution and After the Cataclysm).

    10For what is publicly available, see Ponchaud’s “Author’sNote for the English Translation” of Cambodia:

    Year Zero (1977); Lacouture, Survive le peuple cambodgien!(1978); Chomsky and Herman, After the

    Cataclysm(1979). Independent from the authors who were involvedin the debate, see Shawcross’

    “Cambodia: Some Perceptions of a Disaster” in Chandler andKiernan, Revolution and Its Aftermath in

    Kampuchea: Eight Essays (1983). Since the exchange was bothpublic and private, much of it could be

    hidden from view. It is downplayed by Chomsky and Herman.

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    Beyond this requirement is the obvious need for the author ofthis thesis to have read that particular work in

    order to be able to review it. Of course, there are countlessdissertations, newsletter articles (such as those

    in News from Kampucheaand News from DemocraticKampuchea), and other journal articles (from the

    Journal of Contemporary Asia) that will not be coveredbecause they were unavailable or would have

    required extensive treatment or for lack of time. The KhmerRouge Canon is by no means exhaustive, far too

    many other Indochina scholars deserve to be canonized, yetbecause of circ*mstances will have to wait.

    This partial Canon offers a glimpse into the assumptions andlogic, evidence and arguments that a

    generation of Western scholars used to defend the Khmer Rouge orrationalize their policies during the mid-

    to-late 1970s. Together, they created the standard totalacademic view. This glimpse, whether representative

    or not, is in and of itself a testament to Khmer Rouge’s charmover academia.

    This thesis seeks to answer the following questions on the STAV:First, in what military-political

    context did it develop? Second, what are examples of STAVscholarship, who made them, what arguments

    did they make, and why? Third, how does the Chomsky-Hermanthesis fit in, differ from or was similar to the

    standard total academic view? Fourth, beyond the STAV, what werethe counter-arguments, and for the

    members of the STAV scholars, Summers, Caldwell, Hildebrand,Porter, Chomsky, and Herman, what was the

    continuity and change in their political thinking (usingVickery’s STV typology)?

    In sum, this thesis deconstructs the standard total academicview on Cambodia and constructs the

    foundation for the Khmer Rouge Canon 1975-1979.

    This foundation to the Canon is composed of, among numerousother works, Laura Summers’

    “Consolidating the Revolution” (December 1975) and “Defining theRevolutionary State in Cambodia”

    (December 1976) in Current History, George C. Hildebrand’s andGareth Porter’ssine qua nonof the STAV:

    Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution (1976), Torben Retbøll’s“Kampuchea and the Reader’s Digest” in the

    Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (July-September1979) and Malcolm Caldwell’s towering essay

    “Cambodia: Rationale for A Rural Policy” in Malcolm Cadwell’sSouth-East Asia (1979). To this list chapter 3

    will add Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s masterful“Distortions at Fourth Hand” in theNation (June

    25, 1977) and After the Cataclysm(1979), though Chomsky andHerman are mindful to state that they are by

    11Shawcross, “Cambodia: Some Perceptions of a Disaster,”in Chandler and Kiernan, Revolution and Its

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    no means defending the Khmer Rouge nor “pretend to know wherethe truth lies,” though most of what they

    do is to rehash the Hildebrand and Porter line in a morepalatable design. Together, they are a significant

    body of scholarship from the STAV.

    Three works come to mind with respect to how different facets ofthe STAV has been explored

    previously, William Shawcross’ essay “Cambodia: SomePerceptions of a Disaster,” in Revolution and its

    Aftermath in Kampuchea (1983),12

    Stephen J. Morris’ essay “Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, andCornell” in the

    National Interest (Summer 1989), and GeoffreyC. Gunn and Jefferson Lee’s Cambodia Watching Down

    Under (1991). Shawcross and Morris, two individuals one wouldexpect to find on separate divides,

    essentially agree that the Left failed--for one reason oranother--to become a moral force with respect to

    Cambodia until 1979. This while some on the Left, particularlythose in STAV, zealously defended the Khmer

    revolution. Shawcross focuses on the Chomsky-Herman thesis,while Morris tackles Cornell’s ties to the

    Khmer Rouge. Gunn and Lee offer a exhaustive though curiouslyinsensitive view of the Australian

    connection to Democratic Kampuchea.

    The context within which Khmer Rouge support incubated was theVietnam War. To understand

    how students and scholars, presumed to be detached from peasantconcerns, could have found solidarity

    with the peoples of Kampuchea and Indochina as a whole, one mustfirst bear in mind the political

    atmosphere and conditioning from which grew the yoke of radicalrevolutionary support. It would be facile

    to strip the words of these academics from the context ofhistory, a practice not unlike that being undertaken

    by current revisionists. But at the same time, these sameactivists cum academics must accept responsibility

    for how they reached their conclusions--namely the validity andcredibility of the evidence they

    unceremoniously attacked when at the same time they (quitehypocritically) accepted Khmer Rouge leaders

    Ieng Sary’s or Khieu Samphan’s utterances as words to live by.Notwithstanding the pro-revolutionary

    ideological framework from which they were taught to think,including the strife-ridden 1960s and 1970s, one

    must still wonder how those who studied Cambodia and ostensiblyloved her most in the West, became

    supporters of her worst enemy?

    Aftermath in Kampuchea (1983).12

    Shawcross’ 1984 book, The Quality of Mercy covers some ofthese aspects too.

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    By the 1970 Kent State killings of four students, thesemore extreme elements of the STAV saw U.S.

    intervention not only as a mistake that had to be stopped andstopped now, but increasingly inched toward

    the maquis. After the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979,many of these activists, scholars, and

    academics were forced to choose between supporting their oldfriends, namely the Vietnamese communists

    or Democratic Kampuchea, which would have implicitly meantsupporting the Khmer Rouge to varying

    degrees. That was what Gunn and Lee have called the “two -sidedswitch.”13

    Yet even before that split, there

    was already division in the antiwar movement. Gunn and Leedescribe it:

    The first was the split within the left-liberal camp in the US.This was symbolized by the action of

    singer and civil rights activist Joan Baez in supporting a fullpage advertisem*nt in the New York

    Times condemning Vietnam’s re-education camps and humanrights abuses. Her sources ofinformation included recentlyresettled refugees in America who had undergone incarcerationdespite

    their anti-American activism and NLF sympathies in the pre-1975period. The result was

    splintering of the Indochina Lobby with pro-Hanoi hardlinersincreasingly condoning Vietnam’s

    slide into the Moscow camp.14

    Douglas Pike, Indochina Archive director at UC Berkeley, fondlyrecalls a conference of antiwar activists not

    long after the New York Timesadvertisem*nt appearedwhich turned into a shouting match between doves

    who now could not agree with one another on whether to supportor condemn Hanoi. He may have been

    facetious, but Pike, who became famous for being an outspokenState Department hawk, saw more fury

    between them than he had ever seen between hawks anddoves. There was no lost love between either side,

    to be sure, but one would perhaps have expected more civilityfrom “pacifists.” As lines were drawn and

    crossed in the Third Indochina Conflict (the invasion ofCambodia by Vietnam), similar lines were drawn in

    the West as well, where a distinctly pro -Hanoi faction criticalof the Khmer Rouge formed, leaving behind

    only the truest believers in Pol Pot (i.e., the last of STAVscholars).15

    Like F.A. Hayek’s dedication of his

    classic 1944 treatise The Road to Serfdom to “Socialists of allparties,” this thesis is about some of these

    same socialists.

    Those who romanticized the Kampuchean revolution and upheld thestandard total academic view

    in the years following “liberation” as they always referred it(covered in chapter 2), were young, idealistic

    scholars, like Laura Summers and Gareth Porter both fromCornell’s South-East Asia Program (Albert Gore

    13Gunn and Lee, Cambodia Watching Down Under (1991), p.72.

    14Ibid., p. 75.

    15Cambodian politics and studies is black and white. Thereis little gray. Kiernan calls it a “hall of mirrors.”

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    Hou Youn, but do so at arms -length. Blinded by their ownideological biases, they believe themselves to be

    objective despite employing some very poor sources andmethods.

    In chapter 3, the Chomsky-Lacouture Controversy isreconstructed. It is more a Ponchaud- Barron-

    Paul-Lacouture-Chomsky-Herman Controversy, to be sure, but thatwould sound tediously long. In early

    1977, François Ponchaud wrote the first book detailing thestruggle, under socialism, of the Cambodian

    people. That year, Barron and Paul published their ownbook, Murder of a Gentle Land (1977) an equally if

    not more damning broadside against the Khmer revolution and theKhmer Rouge. Ponchaud and Barron-

    Paul were among the first to see to sound the alarm on Cambodia.In 1976, Ponchaud had written in Mondes

    Asiatiques about the nature of the Khmerrevolution.19After publishing his book, it was reviewedfavorably

    by Jean Lacouture, but that review got a broadside fromthe leading, most intellectually formidable member

    of the antiwar movement, Noam Chomsky. At the MayHearingsin 1977 on Human Rights in Cambodia,

    Gareth Porter trashed Ponchaud his uncritical use of refugees inCambodia: Year Zero. A polemical exchange

    ensued among Chomsky, Lacouture, Ponchaud, and Bob Silvers, theneditor of the New York Review of

    Bookswhich had translated the Lacouture reviewtitled “The Bloodiest Revolution.”

    The Porter-Chomsky-Herman objections were numerous, but stillChomsky and Herman admitted

    that Ponchaud’s book was “serious and worth reading” though fullof discrepancies and unreliable refugee

    reports which were contradicted by other refugees (who, forinstance, had said that they had walked across

    the country and seen no dead bodies). This was vindication ofthe Khmer Rouge--reports of having seen no

    evil nor heard any evil. The Porter-Chomsky-Herman logic in anutshell: Refugees are run away because

    they are displeased, thus will exaggerate, especially over time,if not lie about “alleged atrocities” altogether.

    Chomsky and Herman call for “care and caution,” nothing short ofpatronizing to today’s refugees from

    Guatemala, or El Salvador, or yesterday’s from Auschwitz.Chomsky and Herman latched onto a number of

    media mistakes which include three fake photographs, a fakeinterview with Khieu Samphan, and a handful

    of misquotations. A little more fairly treated was Ponchaud’sbook, but the erratas first discovered by Ben

    Kiernan were blown out of proportion in Chomsky and Herman’sreview of the Ponchaud book for the

    Nation and repeated verbatim two years later inAfter the Cataclysm (1979).

    19Ponchaud, “Le Kampuchea Democratic: Une Revolutionradicale,”Mondes Asiatiques, August.

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    Chapter 4 of this thesis, titled “Beyond the STAV,”analyzes the aftermath of what amounted to a

    parenthetical note in the history of Western academia.Counterevidence is presented in three successive

    rounds: (1) Accuracy in Media’s analysis of human rights in thenews for 1976, (2) positive and negative

    coverage of Cambodia from a variety of news sources for 1977,(3) William Shawcross’ test of the Chomsky -

    Herman thesis for 1975-1979. Following, the continuity andchange in political thinking for each canonized

    STAV scholar is reviewed. To give a sense of possible outcomes,Michael Vickery’s Standard Total View

    typology is used, namely that they (1) accepted, or (2)partially accepted, or (3) mostly rejected the idea that

    the STV that Ponchaud-Barron-Paul-Lacouture had forwarded.

    It is within this context that the conclusion, in chapter 5,attempts to weave common threads in the

    arguments of Summers, Caldwell, Hildebrand, Porter, Chomsky, andHerman. Only after having fully

    absorbed their impact can the reader pass judgment on thesignificance of their contributions to the “Khmer

    Rouge Canon.” What will emerge from this is the picture of acommunity of academics too consumed by the

    need to prove their theories supporting peasant revolutions torealize the consequences of their act ions.

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    Universities are based on the illimitable freedom of the humanmind. For here we are not afraid to

    follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate anyerror so long as reason is left free to combat it.

    --Thomas Jefferson

    Our story begins, fittingly so, in the ivory towers of some ofthe world’s finest universities. At the

    Sorbonne (University of Paris), for instance, where would-beKhmer Rouge leaders like Khieu Samphan, Hu

    Nim, and Hou Youn acquired their ideological trainingcourtesy of the French communist party, and at

    Cornell University, where a generation of Cambodianists wereincreasingly attuned to revolutionary causes

    and movements. Stephen J. Morris reveals the legacy of theSouth-East Asia Program’s (SEAP) at Cornell in

    hisNational Interestessay entitled “Ho ChiMinh, Pol Pot, and Cornell.”1A cursory look at Morris’article

    shows the enormity of his thrust. He unravels a sordid tale ofrevolutionary fanaticism at Cornell’s SEAP

    from the 1960s though the 1970s. Morris’s censure starts at thevery top with politics Professor George

    McTurnin Kahin and ends with Kahin’s students. Some of hismilder critics argue that his article lacks

    historical context. In order to avoid this pitfall, thefollowing section discusses this context.

    The Political Context

    In the late 1960s to the early 1970s, while the United Stateswas still in Vietnam, American B-52s

    began massive “secret” bombings to eliminate NorthVietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia. In The Rise and

    Demise of Democratic Kampuchea, Craig Etcheson writes,

    The fact is that the United States dropped three times thequantity of explosives on Cambodia

    between 1970 and 1973 that it had dropped on Japan for theduration of World War II. Between

    1969 and 1973, 539,129 tons of high explosives rained down onCambodia; that is more than one

    billion pounds. This is equivalent to some 15,400 poundsof explosives for every square mile of

    Cambodian territory. Considering that probably less than 25percent of the total area of Cambodia

    was bombed at one time or another, the actual explosive forceper area would be at least four times

    this level.2

    1Stephen Morris, the reader should note, has been“discredited,” branded a “polemicist,” worst, a “right-

    winger” and is guilty of “character assassination” as personallyconveyed to me by Ben Kiernan, arguably

    the second le ading scholar in Cambodia studies. Morris wasgraduate student, along with Kiernan, in

    Australia. He has vilified the Left with his “Chomsky on USForeign Policy,”Harvard International Review ,

    3, 4 (December-January 1981) and most recently with hiseditorial attacking Kiernan “The Wrong Man to

    Investigate Cambodia,” Wall Street Journal, April 17,1995. The WSJclassifies as vendettascholarship.2Etcheson, The Rise and Demise of DemocraticKampuchea (1984), p. 99.

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    This gave rise to a slew of American and Australian criticsearly on such as Noam Chomsky and Wilfred

    Burchett.3Later, British journalist William Shawcross madequite a name for himself for his Far Eastern

    Economic Review article entitled “Cambodia: Theverdict is guilty on Nixon and Kissinger”4 and his

    acclaimed Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Destruction ofCambodia (1978). In both, Shawcross

    advances a “cause and effect” hypothesis that in essencecondemns “Nixinger” foreign policy for creating

    the Khmer Rouge. Gunn and Lee (1991) offer insights into thisbent, they write, “But if the mainstream press

    and academic interest had turned away from Cambodia in the wakeof US retreat, leftist interest had been

    passionately ignited by the violence of the US saturationbombing of Cambodia.”5Those who became

    “passionately ignited,” grew ever more eager to see themaquistriumph in Cambodia.

    Before constructing the Khmer Rouge Canon, we must firstdeconstruct the ideological framework

    “thought” to have guided the Khmer Rouge once they took power.Surely, had the world known of what

    would become of postwar Cambodia, few scholars or academicswould have sympathized with the Khmer

    Rouge cause. What drew the young, idealistic students ofCambodia to it? It was the duality of peasants

    driven by academic cum revolutionary concerns. Additionally, anystruggle against neo -colonialism would

    have made friends of STAV scholars who shared these values. Atleast part of the awe expressed for the

    Khmer Rouge leadership by the STAV scholars lay in its equallyeducated background. Khmer Rouge

    would-be leaders like Khieu Samphan, Hu Nim, and Hou Youn (who,like Trotsky, would be eliminated in

    purges) all received doctorates in economics or law fromthe University of Paris. These were, of course, the

    intellectual figureheads, not the anti-intellectual mastermindslike Saloth Sar (known by his nom de guerreas

    Pol Pot), Son Sen, Nuon Chea, Ke Pauk, Mok, and IengThirith.6Professor Chandler points out the “old

    canard” one too easily falls into every now and then, when oneassumes that because of intellectuals like

    Khieu Samphan and Hou Youn, the Khmer Rouge were somehow anintellectually driven bunch. He writes,

    The idea that a Ph.D. thesis forms the basis for a revolution isan example of academic folie de

    grandeur, from which I suffer occasionally myself.What built the Cambodian Communist party in

    my view was the phenomenon of continuing warfare in Indochinabetween 1945 and 1970. The

    3Burchett collaborated with Sihanouk for My War with CIA(1973).

    4Shawcross, “Cambodia: The verdict is guilty on Nixon andKissinger,”Far Eastern Economic Review,

    January 7, 1977.5Gunn and Lee, Watching Cambodia DownUnder (1991), p. 62.

    6For insights into Khieu Samphan’s share of responsibilityunder the Khmer Rouge (Communist Party of

    Kampuchea), see Heder, “Pol Pot and Khieu Samphan,” 1991.

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    party enjoyed Vietnamese patronage throughout this period.Those trained in France inhaled fumes

    from the French Communist Party. Mao helped. But the Khmer Rougewere never intellectually

    based. Khieu Samphan was and is, to his metaphors, the dogrunning in front of Pol Pot and other

    anti-intellectuals who wield power in the CPK [Communist Partyof Kampuchea].7

    Also, it seemed that their developmental strategy for Cambodiamatched those of French-trained Marxist

    theorists like Amin Samir, one of the eminence to theWorld-Systems theory that called for autarkic

    development in the Third World. In this heretoforeexploitation-exploited schema, where underdevelopment

    grows from the yoke of capitalism and international integration,a less-developed country can expect to

    develop only if it severs itself from the World-System (that is,the world itself). For Khieu Samphan, autarkic

    development was renamed “conscious, autonomous development” tomake it appear more palatable. Later,

    conscious, autonomous development was re-christened“self-reliance.”

    In September 1976, over a year after the Khmer Rouge took power,the Berkeley-based Indochina

    Resource Center (IRC) published a partial translation of KhieuSamphan’s 1959 economics dissertation.8At

    the time, it was meant as a vision into the new Kampuchea.Virtually no one recognizes that vision as the

    master plan for Cambodia, but the standard total academic viewheld that it was. In this sense, what the

    Khmer Rouge actually did or thought does not matter--at leastnot for our purpose here--since this is a

    study of the STAV on Cambodia, thus a study of Cambodianstudies. Summers’ abridged translation

    intended to offer the world a peek into the mysterious KhmerRouge and their plans for Cambodia. Khieu

    Samphan’s dissertation is unrevolutionary in most instances,though it exudes the same young, graduate

    student’s “humanitarian socialist ideals” that inspired othergraduate students studying the Cambodia years

    later. For our purpose, what IRC circles believed was a plan forthe postwar years, is sufficient to represent

    the standard total academic view. Of course, the dissertationbeing tame relative to the Kampuchea’s reality

    shows how far they off the mark. Yet, from that dissertation, ofwhich the conclusion follows, the reader can

    see how the STAV perceived the Khmer revolution. Khieu Samphan’sconclusion states that:

    The task of industrializing Cambodia would appear above all elsea prior, fundamental decision:

    development within the framework of international integration,that is, within the framework of free

    external trade, or autonomous development.

    International integration has apparently erected rigidrestrictions on the economic

    development of the country. Under the circ*mstances, electing tocontinue development within the

    7Chandler, “Re: [The Killing Fields - Not a Noble Move],”e-mail communication, April 24, 1995.

    8Summers, “Cambodia’s Economy and Problems ofIndustrialization.”Indochina Chronicle , September-

    November 1976.

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    framework of international integration means submitting to themechanism whereby handicrafts

    withered away, precapitalist structure was strengthened andeconomic life was geared in one-sided

    fashion to export production and hyperactive intermediary trade.Put another way, agreeing to

    international integration means accepting the mechanism ofstructural adjustment of the nowunderdeveloped country torequirements of the now dominant, developed economies.Accepting

    international integration amounts to accepting the mechanism bywhich structural disequilibria

    deepens, creating instability that could lead to violentupheaval if it should become intolerable for an

    increasingly large portion of the population. Indeed, there isalready consciousness of the

    contradictions embodied in world market integration of theeconomy.

    Self-conscious, autonomous development is therefore objectivelynecessary. . . .9

    In the first instance, Samphan offers two possible paths:“international integration” or “autonomous

    development”. Because of conditions imposed on the country bythe “international integration” method of

    development, Samphan argues, atavistic modes of production areamplified. How does he reach that

    particular finding? By going back to the late 19thcentury, when the industrialized French penetrated the pre-

    industrial Cambodian economy, Samphan asserts that thisdisruption stopped the course of development for

    Cambodia. In other words, French colonization derailed theCambodian economy. Using balance of trade

    and composition of trade analysis, to make his case, Samphanconcludes that exploitation takes place when

    Cambodia and France trade, and that peasants too are exploitedby urban elite who buy imported luxury

    goods which deplete foreign exchange reserves. Hence, thecontention that “structural disequilibria” from

    “international integration” would lead to “social upheaval ...for an increasingly large portion of the

    population.” In other words, revolution. It seemed to makesense to the person who translated the thesis,

    Laura Summers, and still others who admired it, Malcolm Caldwelland Ben Kiernan, just to name two others.

    Thus, the conclusion “objectively” reached, meant that“self-conscious, autonomous

    development”, i.e., autarky or “self-reliance” was the answer.It would be facile to ridicule this notion in this

    day and age, but in the context of economic history, autarkicdevelopment cast a spell on young, idealistic

    students who had grown increasingly critical of the“neo-colonial world”, in their words. As they looked

    elsewhere for space to forge ahead, their eyes stopped onCambodia, where a fresh revolution had taken

    place, and its charming leaders had closed the country tothe rest of the world. They were in love. As

    professor Chandler says, it is an “old canard” to placetoo much emphasis on Khieu Samphan’s thesis as

    the master plan, since, of course, the Khmer Rouge followedtheir own anti-intellectual national development

    policy of slavery; but for our purpose, what matters hereis not what the Khmer Rouge thought or actually

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    did vis -à-vis the economy, but what the STAV scholars believedwas happening. Equally inspiring to these

    scholars was Hou Youn’s dissertation, “Kampuchea’s Peasants andthe Rural Economy.” Like Khieu

    Samphan, Hou Youn stressed the exploitative dimensions of trade,not just between countries, but urban

    and rural regions. Siding with the peasant’s plight, Hou Youndecried the “thievery” that took place when

    “The tree grows in the rural areas, but the fruit goes to thetowns.”10

    With this in mind, we turn momentarily

    to the military context of how the Khmer Rouge came topower.

    The Rise of Democratic Kampuchea

    Cambodia is the transliterated name of Cambodja, the remnants ofa once mighty Khmer empire that

    stretched out over much of Southeast Asia. Cambodia’scontemporary history began with its colonization

    by France in 1883. Independence came after World War II,in 1953, and until 1970, Cambodia was a

    constitutional monarchy. The coup d’etatwhichdeposed Prince Norodom Sihanouk on March 18, 1970,

    brought to power the pro -American prime minister Lon Nol.Sihanouk, who has never been known to give

    up easily, immediately began a crusade to regain his country.Believing, like General Motors, that “What’s

    good for GM, is good for America,” Sihanouk believed that “Whatwas good for Sihanouk, would be good

    for Cambodia.” He created the resistance/maquis known as theNational United Front for Kampuchea

    (FUNK) soon after his overthrow. FUNK was a coalition ofcommunists and royalists. For the next five

    years, Cambodia was mired in wars on several fronts, bothinternally and externally.

    [The] FUNK joined Vietnamese and Laotian communists on the“single battlefield” to struggle

    against “U.S. imperialism” under the banner of the United Frontof the Three Indochinese People

    (UFTIP). Militarily, this entailed combined militaryoperations--that is, guerrilla, conventional or

    proxy military action as was expedient and/orpossible--conducted from “liberated” areas of the


    These “liberated” areas grew as it became clear that Americawould pursue a “retreat with honor” policy

    with respect to South Vietnam. By 1973, wh en the bombings onCambodia had reached their zenith,

    PFLANK, the military wing of FUNK, “launched its firstfull-scale ‘solo’ offensive.”Though was by no

    means a success, the “real significance of this offensive waspolitical.”12

    This was significant politically in

    9Ibid., p. 25.

    10As quoted in Caldwell, Kampuchea: Rational for a RuralPolicy (1979), p. 17.

    11Etcheson, p. 36.

    12Ibid., p. 117.

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    the sense that Pol Pot’s no-compromise policy, according toEtcheson, took center-stage for the

    communists who were becoming the real brains behind FUNK.

    The Rise of the Standard Total Academic View on Kampuchea

    The rise of Democratic Kampuchea paralleled that of a newconsensus among scholars who

    studied Cambodia. Many had grown hysterical against the war anddestruction of 1970-1975, and looked

    forward to the FUNK’s victory. As increasing specie-speculationand corruption combined with large

    infusions of U.S. aid brought the economy into hyperinflation,the national product: rice, became

    increasingly scarce because of the war-destruction ofa*gricultural capacity.13

    Shells reigned down on Phnom

    Penh for two months before April 1975, the beginning of a newlunar year for Cambodians, and the start of

    Year Zero for the Khmer Rouge. “Two thousand years of Cambodianhistory have virtually ended,” declared

    Phnom Penh Radio in January 1976.14

    Cambodia’s rebirth into Democratic Kampuchea would makeheavy

    use of self-reliance. To almost all the scholars who had studiedCambodia, this made sense. Not just for its

    economics, which had been “objectively” proven by Khieu Samphan,but for its international politics too.

    David Chandler who briefly toyed with the standard totalacademic view, wrote in April 1977, “In the

    Cambodian case, in 1976, autarky makes sense, both in terms ofrecent experience--American intervention,

    and what is seen as Western-induced corruption of previousregimes--and in terms of Cambodia’s long

    history of conflict with Vietnam.”15

    That foreign policy dimension to self-reliance, became thejustification

    for closing Cambodia’s doors to all foreigners. Toward that end,Laura Summers, a lecturer in the politics

    department at the University Lancaster, England, began herapologia for Khmer Rouge activities.

    A graduate of the South-East Asia Program at Cornell, Summersauthored two articles in Current

    Historyabout Cambodia. These articles, entitled“Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution” and “Defining

    the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,” were published in December1975 and December, 1976, respectively.16

    She was in England during these years, a point which willundermine her work and that of many other STAV

    13By 1974, Cambodia imported as much rice as it exportedonly years earlier. The loss in output is double net

    export or import.14

    As quoted in Chandler, “Transformation inCambodia,”Commonweal, April 1, 1977, p. 21015

    Chandler, “Transformation in Cambodia,” p. 210.16

    Summers, “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” alsotitled “Consolidating the Cambodian

    Revolution,” Current History , December 1975; Summers, “Definingthe Revolutionary State in Cambodia,”

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    scholars canonized in this thesis. She did not fieldwork,interviewed no Cambodians for either articles.

    Summers’ first article “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,”ranks among the first attempts by scholars

    of her generation to justify the Khmer revolution that wasachieved with the April 17th, 1975 fall of Phnom

    Penh to the FUNK.

    The Khmers could not be certain about whether the [allegedAmerican intelligence] document

    [regarding sabotage operations] contained authentic plans orspeculative, contingency proposals.

    What was certain was the tenacious and frequently violentinsistence of American governments

    upon controlling the course of Khmer politics.17

    First, she makes no distinction between “Khmers,” FUNK, KhmerRouge--presumably they are one and the

    same. She takes at face value Khmer Rouge vice-premier IengSary’s explanation that documents of

    American sabotage were authentic. Becoming a virtual mouthpiecefor the Khmer Rouge, she writes,

    For Khmers who survived [the legacy of U.S. policies -- 600,000killed, prolonged suffering and

    incidental charity], the awesome task was to transformaccumulated bitterness and suffering into

    impetus for socio-economic reconstruction of the country allwhile normalising the country’s

    foreign relations to prevent further harmfulintervention.18

    Praising the Khmer Rouge for their rice farming techniques, asPorter and Hildebrand would do in Cambodia:

    Starvation and Revolution in 1976, and justifying the need forthe evacuation of Phnom Penh based on the

    fact that 3 million people would now have to be fed by the newregime, Summers contends that “[the] heavy

    [U.S.] bombing deterred many from voting with their feet untilthe day of liberation.”19

    There is, she writes

    authoritatively, “little evidence of famine” although “foodallowances in the solidarity groups are small.”20

    On the positive side, “rice substitutes” are being grown, andthe “end of war also means greater security for

    fishing and livestock industries.”21

    Her analysis of Cambodia’s agricultural and industrial prospectsleave much to be desired too. She

    does not cite any sources, official or otherwise, which wouldcertainly cast doubt on how she procured her

    information. Despite this, she concludes that in DemocraticKampuchea, “Life is without doubt confusing

    and arduous in many regions of the country, but currenthardships are probably less than those endured

    Current History, December 1976. “Cambodia: Consolidating theRevolution,” the manuscript was used, as

    recovered at the Indochina Archive. The page numbers thusconform to that manuscript.17

    Summers, “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” p.1.18

    Ibid., p. 2.19

    Ibid., p. 3.20

    Summers, “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” p.3.21


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    during the war. It is mistaken to interpret postwar socialdisorganization or confusion as nascent opposition

    to the revolution.”22

    Laura Summers, who had been to Cambodia once before 1975,on a brief visit, knew

    very little of the hardships before “liberation” much lessafterwards. She explains that,.

    Thus far, few Khmers have left the country and many of these areformer officers from Lon Nol’s

    army or former civil servants who fear prosecution for wartimeactivities. No war crimes trials have,

    in fact, come to light probably because of an RGNU [RoyalGovernment of National Union, i.e., the

    Khmer Rouge] decision to avoid deepening internalsocio-political conflicts and bitterness in a time

    of reconstruction.23

    Her naïveté is mind-boggling here, Summers assumes that thosewho wished to leave were actually allowed

    to do so, not to speak of the total and unnecessary use oftribunals for which the Khmer Rouge could very

    easily have simply been judge and executioner at once.

    In discussing Cambodia’s foreign policy, the French Embassy andthe Mayagez Affairs, Summers,

    of course, sides with the FUNK whom she knew were the KhmerRouge. For our purpose here, a brief

    discussion of the French embassy incident will suffice. Beforethe Khmer Rouge “liberated” Phnom Penh,

    the French government had already discussed normalizingrelations with them. Thus, the French did not

    intend to leave their embassy. “Hundreds of Frenchmen who hadearlier refused to leave the country,

    journalists of several nationalities, Cambodian officialsof the defeated military regime and diplomats from

    other foreign missions including the Soviet embassy, sought andreceived shelter from the French.”24


    infuriated the Khmer Rouge, with whom she concurred. Diplomaticprotocol would have forced the French

    to close down the embassy and re -open after there-establishment of relations. Why had the government of

    France attempted such fraud? She explains, “Unhappy over theprospect of losing its remaining neo-colonial

    privileges, France hoped to maintain its large culturalmission in Cambodia and sought compensation for

    nationalized rubber plantations.”25

    Again, one must wonder how she arrive at such creative andperceptive


    Throughout the article permeates a sense of disproportion. Forinstance, Summers speaks of

    massive resettlement as though it were a normal affair. Hernonchalant treatment of evacuations stands in

    stark contrast to the seething sarcasm she expresses towardsFrench and American actions with respect to

    22Ibid., p. 4.

    23Summers, “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” p.4.

    24Ibid., p. 6.

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    the Royal Government of National Union (RGNU), the regime namefor FUNK (which took power).

    “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution” ended on another ofmany positive notes. The overall foreign

    policy of Democratic Kampuchea is praised, and its impacton the region assessed. “Among Asians, if not

    among other [sic], Khmer desires for peace and respecthave been recognized and reciprocated.”26


    Summers’ defense of the new Kampuchea is multifaceted. Fromdomestic to foreign policy, the Khmer Rouge

    could do no wrong. She does a fantastic job of rationalizingaway the more awkward Khmer Rouge policies

    such as expelling all foreigners. They were expelled, sheargues, for historical reasons. After years of abuse

    by her neo-colonial master, who could blame Cambodia forwanting to kick the foreigners out? Her

    apologetics obfuscate the fragmentary reports coming of refugeeswho were, in fact, fleeing the country.

    Later, she suggests that they have reasons to lie: collaboratorswith the ancien regimeperhaps? or worse,

    the discredited Americans! What emerges from this firstEnglish-language essay on the new Kampuchea is

    the picture of a still idyllic revolutionary State, divorcedfrom reality.27

    Defining the Revolutionary State

    In her second Current Historyarticle regarding the newKampuchea, published in December 1976,

    Summers is more reserved in her alacrity to praise Khmer Rougeaccomplishments. One might call it cautious

    but very optimistic. In contradistinction, David Chandler,who felt the obligation to give the new leaders of

    Cambodia the benefit of the doubt, put it this way:

    Can the regime recapture the grandeur of Angkor [in which thegreat temples were built in the 12th

    century] without duplicating the slavery (and by implication,the elite ) that made Angkor what it

    was? Is the price for liberation, in human terms, too high?Surely, as a friend of mine has written,

    we Americans with our squalid record in Cambodia should be“cautiously optimistic” about the

    new regime, “or else shut up.” At the same time, I might feelless cautions and more optimistic if I

    were able to hear the voices of people I knew in the Cambodiancountryside fourteen years ago,

    telling me about the revolution in their words.28

    The reverse is perhaps true for Laura Summers, who upon readingthe comments of “emissaries” to

    Kampuchea, decides that all must be fine. Having acquired newmaterial to propagate, she quotes, without

    so much as a single qualification (with respect to thecontrolled nature of the visit), the Swedish ambassador


    26Summers, “Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” p.8.

    27In chapter 4, the reader will see that there was paucityof coverage, according to Shawcross (1983).

    Additionally, media coverage in 1975 focused not on the welfareof Cambodians, but that of foreigners still

    interned in the French embassy in Cambodia, according toPonchaud (1978).

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    to China’s observations while visiting Democratic Kampuchea asan invited guest of the new regime.

    Believing perhaps that the ambassador was free to visit allplaces yet saw “no signs of starvation,” Summers

    generalizes this finding to contradict refugee claims ofatrocities and starvation. But she goes too far,

    however, when she admonishes the ambassador for not recognizingwhat she insists is an obvious bomb

    crater in Siem Riep, caused by American bombs dropped some timeduring his visit of 1976. Of course, she

    was not an eyewitness nor an expert on bomb craters, not tospeak of American-made ones.

    On the status of Prince Sihanouk, who founded FUNK, but wassubdued by the Khmer Rouge, she

    writes, “Since his retirement, Sihanouk continues to live inCambodia, where, according to another visiting

    emissary, he enjoys the respect and affection befitting hisstatus as an eminent nationalist.”29The title of his

    memoirs Prisonier des Khmer Rouges (1986) is self-evident incontradicting that emissary’s observations.

    Here, the mistake she makes is to believe too easily inemissaries. Far from being randomly selected, the

    emissaries who visited Cambodia were not chosen for theircritical bent. It took the regime three-and-half

    years to invite Western journalists, a total of three to beexact. One of them was Malcolm Caldwell, a lecturer

    in Southeast Asian economic history at the University of London,and author of occasional essays, one

    book on Cambodia in the Southeast Asian war,30

    and newspaper articles in support of the Khmerrevolution.

    He writes, in 1977 for theLondon Times, “Profound changeswere needed, changes which could be brought

    about only by revolution...”31

    Caldwell, who, like Summers, is canonized in this thesis,was understandably

    biased towards the Khmer Rouge. One would think, given allthis, that scholars like Laura Summers and

    Malcolm Caldwell, both of whom held the standard total academicview on Cambodia (see no evil, hear no

    evil), would turn to fresh sources of information or at least dosome fieldwork where they could interview

    refugees and the like, but that apparently ranked low on theirlist of priorities.

    Regarding the refugee accounts of atrocities, Summers forexample, dismisses them for having

    received more attention than they literally “deserved.” In aseries of apologetics, she rationalizes their

    overuse by the Press as having “served to harden Phnom Penh’sattitude towards Western journalism even

    28Chandler, “Transformation in Cambodia,” p. 210.

    29Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,”Current History , Dec. 1976, p. 213.

    30Caldwell’s 1973 book with Lek Hor Tan, Cambodia in theSoutheast Asian War, is significant in that it

    shows the inception of a revolutionary spirit, the beginning, asit were, of the end.31

    Caldwell, “Inside Cambodia: the other side of thepicture,”London Times, July 20, 1977, p. 14.

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    as the government welcomed a few Asian journalists into thecountry.”32

    Not only were the Americans at

    fault for causing starvation and thus the evacuation of PhnomPenh, as her colleagues would argue, but the

    negative press was making them uncomfortable. Their no comment,closed doors policy was thus

    understandable! Laura Summers attributes everything the KhmerRouge do to knee-jerk reaction to French

    and American malfeasance and imperialism.33

    Summers then outlines, quite favorably, the constitution ofDemocratic Kampuchea with its radical

    collectivist ideas. After describing the elaborate process ofwriting the Democratic Kampuchea Constitution,

    which she concludes is a mixture of Leninist and peasantcustoms, she sings the preamble in obvious

    admiration, “happiness, equality, justice and true democracyreign without rich or poor people, without

    exploiting or exploited classes and where people live in harmonyand the greatest national unity.”34


    preamble was republished onto the fifth page of Long Livethe 17th Anniversary of the Communist Party of

    Kampuchea, a propaganda booklet published by “Group ofKampuchean Residents in America” or G.K. Ran.

    The booklet contains a translation of Premier Pol Pot’s speechcommemorating that 17th anniversary. In

    France and England, similar groups published press releases fromthe Royal Government of National Union

    of Democratic Kampuchea. These were the “Comite des Patriotes duKampuchea Democratique en

    France” and the “British Kampuchea Support Campaign,”which, until 1991 lingered on.35

    Summers, who no

    doubt belonged to one, was by herself, a virtual think-tank. Shedid not have to take orders from anyone in

    order to formulate her justifications, but she did needconsiderable official information from official organs,

    to be so keen.

    The evacuation of Phnom Penh, which was roundly criticized bythe rest of the world as “barbaric”

    was really justified according to the standard total academicview which she supported. As her justification,

    she writes “By all accounts, however, universal conscription forwork prevented a postwar famine,” 36but

    32Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,”p. 213.

    33This view gained popularity during the Cold War. Sovietaction was in fact reaction to American foreign


    As quoted on in Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary Statein Cambodia,” p. 215.35

    According to Gunn and Lee (1991), “Other committees which,in the main, emerged in intellectual defence

    of Democratic Kampuchea include the Upssala -based publishers ofKampuchea in Sweden with support

    sections throughout that country. Other support circles emergedin West Germany, Switzerland, Denmark,

    Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia.” (Gunn and Lee, p. 62)36

    Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,”p. 215.

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    admits that “It also appears that some work groups, in lieu ofother forms of reeducation, are obliged to work

    harder and longer than others.”37

    One must wonder how she knows this, given that she has notbeen inside

    the country. Does she have a reference? No source is listed.With respect to statements from refugees and

    Khmer Rouge defectors sponsored by resistance groups abroad,Summers dismisses them entirely. She


    These public pleas for support and the public concern raised bysensational, but false, documents

    finally provoked the Paris Mission of Democratic Kampuchea toprotest that some journalists were

    degrading their profession and that the French held a majorshare of the responsibility for allowing

    these activities to continue.38

    Some of the documents to be discredited were, for instance,several faked photographs and interviews

    which between 1976 and 1977 were published in newspapers fromAustralia to America.39

    The issue of the

    photographs, in particular, will be summoned when theChomsky-Herman book, After the Cataclysm, is

    discussed in the following chapter.

    In “Defining the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,” Summers doesadmit, albeit sparingly, that life

    was difficult. As in her first Current Historyarticle,Summers compares the Khmer revolution with other

    historical revolutions, proposing that “Like the puritanrevolution in England the Khmer revolution is the

    expression of deep cultural and social malaise unleashed by asudden and violent foreign assault on the

    nation’s social structure.”40

    Her concern for the “difficulty” of life in the newKampuchea is so disingenuous

    as to discount its value altogether. The urban “elite” werehaving problems because they were simply not

    used to farming the land! A remarkable discovery that took ayear to reach. Summers throws that glimpse of

    sympathy away, however, when she adds, “What the urban dwellersconsider ‘hard’ labor may not be

    punishment or community service beyond human endurance ...Such associations [with memories it invokes

    of Russian history] take what is happening in Cambodia out ofits historical and cultural context.”41


    must wonder what specific context she means, when she says thathard labor may not be punishment. In

    any case, Summers’ article proposes an embryonic theory of theFree Press that Chomsky and Herman

    would elaborate in 1979, and again as recently as 1988. To besure, that theory was more sophisticated than

    37Ibid., p. 217.

    38Ibid., p.216.

    39See, for instance, Mariano, “Forced Cambodia LaborDepicted,” Washington Post, April 8, 1977.

    40Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary State in Cambodia,”p. 215.

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    the conceptual framework alluded to by Summers, but still itcontained all the elements of this tragedy. She

    asserts that:

    The United States press, not to be outdone, produced dramaticnews reports and editorials based on

    refugee and unnamed intelligence sources. In retrospect, thesereports were partly inaccurate and are

    still largely unverified. The flap illustrates the powerful andpotentially dangerous force that is

    generated when the political machinations of a few capture theattention of a concerned and

    uninformed public.42

    Like Chomsky and Herman, Summers dismisses the refugee accountsas bearing little evidentiary validity.

    Perhaps it is hubris that prevents her from paying moreattention to these refugees, but that does not excuse

    her from taking them seriously. Therefore, as in otherinstances, she works these into a lather of ever-less

    reasonable justifications for why they would have unpleasantthings to say about the new regime.

    Consistent with the STAV, she writes:

    Clearly, they [the reported incidents] reflect the fears andexpectations arising from the exile’s

    position in the old society. Most Cambodians leaving thecountry in 1975 managed to do so

    without much difficulty as if the regime were acknowledging thatthey were among the few whose

    values could not be accommodated in a people’sstate.43

    Summers concludes, in the same fashion as her first article,“Cambodia: Consolidating the Revolution,” by

    returning to the realm of foreign policy and Kampuchea’sposition vis-à-vis its historical enemies. She notes

    that the new regime’s posture towards Vietnam is cool, but thatwith its “Indian” brothers to the west and

    north, Thailand and Laos, respectively, relations haveimproved.

    The Khmer revolutionaries have actively contributed to thepost-war regional integration of

    Southeast Asia while consolidating Cambodia’s position as anonaligned [meaning socialist] state.

    Despite these signs of the growing acceptance of Cambodia’srevolution, Phnom Penh has not yet

    relaxed its guard against hostile foreign powers who might stillattempt to disrupt the people’s


    This cautious but optimistic ending suggests that she grew morewary from December 1975 to December

    1976 of what was in store for Democratic Kampuchea. In her firstCurrent Historyarticle, Summers was

    cautious but very optimistic about every facet of the newregime’s policies. By 1976, however, she had to

    defend the regime’s increasingly battered record on humanrights.

    41Ibid., p. 216.

    42Ibid., pp. 216-217.

    43Summers, “Defining the Revolutionary Sate in Cambodia,”p. 217.

    44Ibid., p. 218.

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    Laura Summers, it must be said, did not know for certainwhat was really going on in Cambodia.

    From her vantage point in Lancaster, England, she saw verylittle. However, she chose to write on

    Cambodia’s revolution nonetheless. For other scholars whosecanonical contributions are covered in this

    chapter, the standard total academic view reigned supreme. Likeso many other students and scholars of her

    generation, Laura Summers was a romantic of revolutions.Self-reliance and non-alignment were code-words

    that suggested breaking away from the World-System, i.e.,imperialism, the same imperialism which she

    blamed for destroying Cambodia during the first half ofthe 1970s. Combined with this STAV on Cambodia

    was her incredibly low suspicion of official RGNU explanationsfor why certain policies were undertaken.

    Instead, she hypocritically exercises a “healthy” skepticismtowards the media. What emerges from these

    two contributions to the “Khmer Rouge Canon” is the picture ofan academic far too obsessed with

    rationalizing every objectionable Khmer Rouge action, to realizethat the more severe and numerous the

    objections, the more likely some grain of truth was in them.

    Starvation and Revolution

    At Cornell, George McTurnan Kahin, director of the SoutheastAsia program from 1961 to 1970, and

    professor of international relations at the Universitysince 1951, became an expert on the Vietnam conflict.

    One of his students was Gareth Porter, soon to become a leading“scholar” on both Cambodia and Vietnam.

    Kahin’s foreword to Gareth Porter’s and George C. Hildebrand’sbook, Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution

    (1976), praises it for “what is undoubtedly the best informedand clearest picture yet to emerge of the

    desperate economic problems brought about in Cambodia largely asa consequence of American

    intervention, and of the ways in which that country’s newleadership has undertaken to meet them.”45

    Porter, who was probably a classmate of Laura Summers,co-authored the most famous book of all Khmer

    Rouge defenses published.

    The Khmer Rouge Canon’s Sine Qua Non

    Nowhere was the war so brutal, so devoid of concern forhuman life, or so shattering in its impact

    on a society as in Cambodia. But while the U.S. government andnews media commentary have

    contrived to avoid the subject of the death and devastationcaused by the U.S. intervention in

    Cambodia, they have gone to great lengths to paint a picture ofa country ruled by irrational

    revolutionaries, without human feelings, determined to reducetheir country to barbarism. In shifting

    the issue from U.S. crimes in Cambodia to the alleged crimes ofthe Cambodian revolutionary

    45Porter and Hildebrand, Cambodia: Starvation andRevolution (1976), p. 7.

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    government, the United States has offered its own versionof the end of the Cambodian war and the

    beginning of the new government.

    --Porter and Hildebrand, 197646

    In 1976, SEAP graduate Gareth Porter, and his colleague GeorgeC. Hildebrand published a small,

    unread, but important book entitled Cambodia: Starvation andRevolution. It is important for two reasons:

    first, it was the first English-language book of the eventsunfolding in Cambodia (becoming the sine qua

    non for proponents of the standard total academicview).47

    Second, it rationalized everything the Khmer

    Rouge did and were doing (from the evacuation of Phnom Penhresidents and hospital patients to the

    forcing of monks into hard labor).It became a veritablebible for defending the Khmer Rouge. Kiernan,

    Chomsky, Herman, and Caldwell all referred to the bookfavorably. In Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution,

    Porter and Hildebrand offer what appears to be insurmountableevidence contrary to the reports of atrocities

    taking place in revolutionary Cambodia, renamed DemocraticKampuchea.

    Porter and Hildebrand’s Sources

    Using “suppressed” documents and “official” bulletins courtesyof the Government of Democratic

    Kampuchea, they argue that the April 17th, 1975 evacuation ofPhnom Penh, was due to the U.S. war on the

    people of Cambodia, which resulted in the overpopulationof Phnom Penh (from 600,000 to 2-3 million

    between 1970 and 1975) and therefore its necessaryevacuation. Furthermore, they argue that the explosion

    of corruption under the Lon Nol regime was the direct result ofU.S. foreign aid, and that in turn, it

    exacerbated death, malnutrition, and disease in Phnom Penh,making it uninhabitable. Curiously, Porter and

    Hildebrand in their 100 plus pages book refer to the Khmer Rougeonly by their more palatable coalition

    name of NUFK (National Front for a United Kampuchea, also knownas “FUNK” in French acronyms).48

    They pepper their book with propaganda photos directly from thenew regime.

    In chapter 2, titled “The Politics of Starvation in Phnom Penh”Porter and Hildebrand attack the

    media reports of atrocities, as did Summers inCurrent History,because they were based on a single account

    written by Sydney Shandberg for the New YorkTimesthree weeks after the evacuation while cooped up in

    the French embassy. Porter and Hildebrand write, “The articlewas a weak foundation for the massive

    46Ibid., p. 11.

    47The first book was a French book: Steinbach, Phnom PenhLibere (1976). A cursory look at the endnotes

    of the Porter and Hildebrand book indicates that it is usedextensively as a source.

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    historical judgment rendered by the news media. It contained noeyewitness reports on how the evacuation

    was carried out in terms of food, medical treatment,transportation, or the general treatment of evacuees.”49

    While it is true that Shandberg could not venture outside theembassy, from his vantage point he see more

    than Porter and Hildebrand could have, while in the UnitedStates. The point of not having eyewitnesses to

    corroborate or contradict reports of atrocities will becomesimportant when the Chomsky-Herman book is

    discussed at length in the following chapter. Continuing theircritique of the mass media, Porter and

    Hildebrand write, “Nor was there any extensive analysis of thereasons Shandberg attributed to the

    revolutionary leadership for the action.”50

    Here, Porter and Hildebrand refer to the circ*mstances ofpostwar

    Cambodia, circ*mstances which they insist were deplorablebecause of U.S. actions that prompted the

    evacuation. Like Chomsky-Herman, they assert the evacuationsaved live s.

    Porter and Hildebrand discount stories similar to New YorkTimesjournalist Sydney Shandberg’s

    as sensational (by of their titles alone) and write“commentators and editorialists expected revolutionaries to

    be ‘unbending’ and to have no regard for human life, andbecause they were totally unprepared to examine

    the possibility that radical change might be required in thatparticular situation.”51

    Nowhere is the romance

    with revolutions more obvious than it is here. Porter andHildebrand expect revolutionaries to bend and to

    be humanitarian because their indoctrination had taughtthat revolutions were good. Phnom Penh was in the

    jaws of starvation when the Khmer Rouge “liberated” it, sothey argued, and that there was no other

    alternative than to evacuate everyone. By defending the KhmerRouge, via justification of their policies,

    Porter and Hildebrand resort to official explanations andsources of information. Revolutions

    notwithstanding, there is no mention of any crime committed bythe Khmer Rouge during the evacuation.

    On the other hand, numerous counterexamples of reasonable, ifnot caring Khmer Rouge behavior and

    demeanor, are forwarded.

    More rigorous analyses supported by actual evidence suggests arather more cynical desire to

    shut the economy down, reverse class order, and enslave theurban population. The controversy over the

    evacuation continues despite compelling evidence that suggestsit was unnecessary and provoked

    48Porter and Hildebrand use “Khmer Rouge” when they mustquote its use, but prefer NUFK (FUNK).

    49Porter and Hildebrand, p. 40.


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    numerous deaths. The Khmer Rouge’s contempt for city dwellers isself-evident in one of their post-

    liberation broadcasts:

    Upon entering Phnom Penh and other cities, the brother andsister combatants of the revolutionary

    army . . . sons and daughters of our workers and peasants . . .were taken aback by the

    overwhelming unspeakable sight of long-haired men and youngsterswearing bizarre clothes making

    themselves undistinguishable [sic] from the fair sex. . .. Our traditional mentality, mores, traditions,

    literature, and arts and culture and tradition were totallydestroyed by U.S. imperialism and its

    stooges. Social entertaining, the tempo and rhythm of music andso forth were all based on U.S.

    imperialistic patterns. Our people’s traditionally clean, soundcharacteristics and essence were

    completely absent and abandoned, replaced by imperialistic,p*rnographic, shameless, perverted,

    and fanatic traits. (FBIS IV, May 15, 1975:H4)52

    The anti-American theme was nothing new. After all, the FUNKfought U.S. imperialism. Perhaps, because of

    this, the followers of the standard total academic view wereespecially drawn to it. Ben Kiernan, who

    followed the STAV, interpreted this as forgivable nationalism.Porter and Hildebrand maintain that the

    evacuation was a reasonable course of action given low foodreserves without American aid in sight. In

    retrospect, however, food supplies in Phnom Penh were notsufficiently low as to justify an evacuation to

    the countryside. If anything, it was the two month long shellingof the capital by the FUNK that resulted in

    the stranglehold on Phnom Penh. Furthermore, evidence that theevacuation was planned well before April

    suggests that strategic advantage, not the well-being of thecitizens mattered to the Khmer Rouge. Hou

    Youn’s dissertation had sufficiently maligned cities as to makethem appear useless to the country. Not only

    was class order reversed, but city dwellers would be made tofarm the land, in a complete occupational

    reversal. Charles Twinning explains:

    An extraordinary [Cambodian communist] party congress held inFebruary 1975, reportedly

    presided over by Khieu Samphan, is generally thought tohave made the decision to evacuate cities

    and abolish all currency after the takeover. The fact that thecities were all emptied within several

    days of the fall, with the people knowingly directed to spots inthe countryside where they camped

    at least temporarily, does not give the impression of a sudden,knee jerk action. This had all been

    organized before hand.53

    Another Porter and Hildebrand justification for Phnom Penh’sevacuation is that since 5/6 of the population

    of Phnom Penh were refugees from the countryside, they weresimply being returned to the countryside.

    This explanation sounds, oddly enough, reasonable. But why then,would over 800,000 peasants turn up


    51Ibid., p. 41.

    52Jackson, ed., Cambodia: 1975-1978 (1989), p. 44.

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    Moreover, Porter and Hildebrand were concerned about theimage of the Khmer Rouge as

    somehow inhumane. A romance with revolution dictates that it behumanitarian and just. Porter and

    Hildebrand describe the difficult choices the Khmer Rouge faced,and how their actions were rational.

    Above all else, the NUFK [FUNK] leadership had to be concernedwith food and health. The

    concentration of a large part of the population in the cities,where they were unproductive and

    totally dependent on foreign aid, posed grave dangers. On theone hand, attempt to maintain an

    adequate supply of rice for the urban population would havedisrupted the existing highly organized

    system of agricultural production; on the other hand, extremelyovercrowded conditions, combined

    with the breakdown of all normal public services, made theoutbreak of a major epidemic highly


    With this in mind, the evacuation made sense to Porter andHildebrand. The reasoning followed that: first,

    the conversion of unproductive labor to productive labor (fromcity to countryside) would prevent

    starvation and second, epidemics necessitate evacuations. Porterand Hildebrand assert that the 600,000 city

    dwellers of Phnom Penh (i.e., those who were supposed to bethere to begin with) were justifiably taken into

    the countryside because their labor was needed for the task ofcultivating rice. The claim becomes nothing

    short of utopian fantasy when they write, “The 500,000 to600,000 urban dwellers would by growing their

    own food, by freeing others from the task of getting food tothem, substantially increase the total produced.

    By remaining unproductive during the crucial months, on theother hand, they would reduce the amount of

    food available to everyone.”55

    Their logic is devoid of realistic consideration for thehuman toll, just as

    Summers’ nonchalance reigned over the idea of evacuatingmillions away from home. When they take at

    face value Khmer Rouge vice-chairman Ieng Sary’s claim that, “Bygoing to the countryside, our peasants

    have potatoes, bananas, and all kinds of foods,”56

    they lose all sense of reality or objectivity.Stephen

    Morris said it best, “Serious students of communist regimes knowthat public utterances by communist

    officials and their media may or may not be true. But they arealways made to serve a political purpose.”57

    Porter and Hildebrand accept all the positions and policies ofthe new regime, re-printing without reservation

    propaganda pictures of postwar Cambodian workers in thefields and factories working “happily”.

    53Twinning, “The Economy,” in Jackson, Cambodia:1975-1978, pp. 114-115.

    54Porter and Hildebrand, pp. 42-43.

    55Ibid., pp. 44-45.

    56Ibid., p. 44.

    57Morris, “Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, andCornell,”National Interest, Summer 1989, p. 54.

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    Countering charges that the print media’scharacterization of the evacuation as a “death march,” is

    another falsehood Porter and Hildebrand dispel. They argue thatsuch untruths were “fostered by U.S.

    government statements, including ‘intelligencedocuments,’”58

    They cite accounts contradicting claims of

    untoward behavior by the Khmer Rouge onto the population ofPhnom Penh shortly after April 17. Most

    were from Phnom Penh Libere: Cambodge de l’autre sourire (1976),the very first book that favorably treated

    the Khmer Rouge evacuation of Phnom Penh. Gunn and Lee call it a“studied” account as opposed to the

    “banalized” version seen in the motion picture “The KillingFields”. Porter and Hildebrand conclude from

    this that the “death march” characterization was“unfounded.”

    Finally, leaving nothing to chance, Porter and Hildebrand holdthat “the temporary clearing of most

    hospitals, far from being inhumane, was an act of mercy for thepatients.”59

    They argue that the hospitals of

    Phnom Penh had become overcrowded and unhealthy. It was thusnecessary, for the well-being of the

    patients, to evacuate them. And what could they expectonto the elsewhere? Porter and Hildebrand offer as

    an alternative a propaganda photo of a Khmer Rouge surgical teamoperating in 1974 as proof that better

    care was just a countryside away. Jean Lacouture retells anencounter he had with a Khmer Rouge supporter

    in which the former argued that “under the Lon Nol regime,medical practice was in the hands of the

    Americans, corrupt and decadent. These poor souls had to beripped out, at all cost, from this alienating

    medical facility. [To which I replied:] A new ‘conspiracy ofwhite coats.’”60

    Porter’s and Hildebrand’s falls

    near the Norwegian journalist’s.

    The shameless propagandizing continued without refrain. Havingrationalized the more gruesome

    Khmer Rouge actions, Porter and Hildebrand legitimize theleadership and sing its praises. They conclude

    the second chapter of Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution,rather self-assuredly, by claiming that:

    A careful examination of the facts regarding the evacuation ofCambodia’s cities thus shows that the

    description and interpretation of the move conveyed to theAmerican public was an inexcusable

    distortion of reality. What was portrayed as a destructive,backward-looking policy motivated by

    doctrinaire hatred was actually a rationally conceived strategyfor dealing with the urgent problems

    that faced postwar Cambodia.61

    58Porter and Hildebrand, pp. 47-48.

    59Ibid., p. 50.

    60Lacouture, Survive le peuple cambodgien! (1978), pp.134-135.

    61Porter and Hildebrand, p. 56.

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    In chapter 3, Porter and Hildebrand explain the reasons behindCambodia’s agricultural revolution by

    legitimizing the Khmer Rouge leadership. In a juxtaposition ofacademic and peasants, they assert that

    because some of the Khmer Rouge leaders are doctors ofphilosophy, namely Khieu Samphan, Hou Youn

    and Hu Nim, which makes their policies well-thought out andlegitimate. This romanticization seen not just

    here but elsewhere in Malcolm Caldwell’s, Laura Summers’ and BenKiernan’s contributions to the STAV on


    In a recent editorial in the Wall StreetJournal opposing the U.S. State Department’s half-

    million dollar grant to Yale University for the creation ofdatabase on Khmer Rouge crimes to be headed by

    Ben Kiernan, Stephen Morris writes, “Mr. Kiernan wrote that‘Khieu Samphan’s personality--particularly his

    assuming manner, ready smile and simple habits--endeared him toKhmer peasants. Himself a peasant by

    birth, he is said to have been somewhat ascetic in hisbehavior, but never fanatical and always calm.’”63

    Expectations of famine by Western intelligence sources for 1977were dismissed by Porter and

    Hildebrand in light of FUNK broadcasts that claimed superb riceharvests due to superior two-cycle rice-

    farming under Khmer Rouge leadership. They write:

    Tiev Chin Leng, former director of the port of Sihanoukville anda member of the NUFK [FUNK]

    residing in Paris, the 1975 crop amounted to 3.25 million tonsof paddy, or about 2.2 million tons of

    rice. For the Cambodian people this bumper harvest represents250 grams of rice per meal per

    adult, and 350 grams per meal doe worker on the productionforce.... In addition meat eating has

    increased, In the past, under the influence of Buddhisttradition, the peasants took little part in the

    slaughtering of animals, and ate very little meat.64

    Both points (including the statistics) reappear in MalcolmCaldwell’s posthumously published essay turned

    book Kampuchea: Rationale for a Rural Policy (1979)reviewed in the following section. The unending

    gullibility of Porter and Hildebrand is itself incredible.However, that was not the end of it. For instance,

    62Kiernan himself is not canonized because none of hisSTAV works were available for review, but

    secondary sources indicate that he was quite favorable to theKhmer Rouge during their reign. See chapter 3

    and 5 for more on this. The original sources, if available,would be Kiernan, “Revolution and Social

    Cohesion in Cambodia” presented to the ASEAN Seminar (at whichCaldwell was the main speaker) and

    published under The ASEAN Papers, Townsville: James CookUniversity for Transnational Co-operative,

    Sydney, 1979; and “Social Cohesion in RevolutionaryCambodia,”Australian Outlook, December 1976.

    There were still many, many others who were STAV scholars. Somehave recanted their views, as did Ben

    Kiernan. Others have yet to admit to having done anything wrong.Kiernan’s apologetic piece in the

    Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholarsin 1979 is becovered in chapter 5.63

    Morris, “The Wrong Man to Investigate Cambodia,” WallStreet Journal, April 17, 1975. The Kiernan

    quotation originates from a June 1975Dyason HousePaper.64

    Porter and Hildebrand, pp. 85-86.

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    Porter and Hildebrand believed that forcing monks to work wasnot an act that could “fairly be represented

    as religious persecution,”65

    because everyone else, they argued, old and young wasforced to work, too.

    Although Cambodia: Starvation and Revolution is about Cambodia,a good portion of it is devoted

    to blaming America for the starvation which, as it turns out,was tampered by the Khmer Rouge’s liberation

    of Phnom Penh. Porter and Hildebrand leave no stone unturned intheir critique of U.S. intervention and its

    destruction of Cambodia. Porter and Hildebrand describe ascissors-like extraction mechanism curiously like

    the Soviet law of primitive socialist accumulation, when theyexplain that modern industry would be fueled

    by “capital raised by the expansion of agriculturalproduction.”66

    Their conclusion makes Cambodia the

    victim not of the Khmer Rouge, but of the Americans and the halfdecade of underdevelopment and

    destruction by U.S. bombs. In addition, the U.S. media,according to Porter and Hildebrand, was a co-

    conspirator in this cover-up, by not doing justice to Cambodia.Porter and Hildebrand fastidiously conclude


    Cambodia is only the latest victim of the enforcement of anideology that demands that social

    revolutions be portrayed as negatively as possible, rather thanas responses to real human needs

    which the existing social and economic structure was incapableof meeting. In Cambodia--as in

    Vietnam and Laos--the systematic process of mythmaking must beseen as an attempt to justify the

    massive death machine which was turned against a defenselesspopulation in a vain effort to crush

    their revolution.67

    As Porter and Hildebrand romanticize the “social revolutions,”they reveal their motive: defending the

    Khmer revolution. Far from being scholarly or objective, theymake evident their biases by citing, without so

    much as a pathetic reservation or qualification, the propagandawhich forms their defense of the Khmer

    revolution ergo the Khmer Rouge. What they achieved,unquestionably, was the temporary confounding of

    the events in the new Kampuchea, perched from half the globeaway, they played a role in legitimizing it for

    another three years. Next, we canonize the significantcontributions of Malcolm Caldwell. Caldwell was an

    author, STAV scholar, tireless Khmer Rouge defender, and finallya victim of the Khmer Rouge themselves.

    Malcolm Caldwell’s Kampuchea

    Another academic who romanticized the Khmer revolution and itsrevolutionaries was Malcolm

    Caldwell, a lecturer at the School of Oriental and AfricanStudies (SOAS), University of London. He was an

    65Ibid., p. 72.

    66Ibid., p. 88.

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    economic historian “committed to the struggle of the colonized,oppressed, and impoverished against

    imperialism and neo-colonialism.”68

    In short, Caldwell became the leading academic supporterof the Khmer

    Rouge. His colleagues write upon his assassination that he“would not have liked to have gone down in

    history as an academic in the usual sense of the term. He wouldhave wanted to be remembered as an

    activist on the British Left and an anti-imperialistfighter.”69

    Caldwell published a number of articles70


    submitting the draft of a paper titled “Cambodia: Rationale fora Rural Policy” was published after his death

    in 1979 under the auspices of James Cook University of NorthQueensland.71

    The introductory note by Hering and Utrecht in MalcolmCaldwell’s South-East Asia echo similar

    points gathered from Porter and Hildebrand (1976) as wellas Summers (1975 and 1976),

    The Western Press, apparently feeling insulted and beingoutraged, excelled in negative reporting on

    developments in Kampuchea under the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary regime.Not only did strongly exaggerated

    reports on the mass killings in the regime appear in the Westernmass media, but also reports of

    crop failures and hunger in Kampuchea. Contrary to thisunfavorable reporting in the Western

    newspaper, Malcolm was able to find more reliable dataandcompose a much more favorable

    account of economic development in Kampuchea in thelast two years before the Vietnamese

    invasion of January 1979. [Emphasis added.]72

    As the STAV scholars mobilized against the media’s “negativereporting on developments in Kampuchea”

    they joined by one of their elder statesmen, Malcolm Caldwell.Although negative coverage did appear from

    various newspapers and magazines, it was neve

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