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A Biography of KHIEU Samphan (PhD)


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Extraordinary chamber to try some of the top leaders during Democratic Kampuchea Regime; a regime that is accused of killing millions of Cambodian innocent lives, is on the process. This is probably the most heated topic from the government institution up to the general public. However, a prevailing fact that would dim “the justice prospect” for Cambodian people is that a huge number of the people do not even know the basic biography of those most responsible Democratic Kampuchea leaders to face trial, constituted of Cambodian and international judges.

Mr. KHIEU Samphan, one of the prominent leaders of many other Democratic Kampuchea leaders is due to face the foregoing extraordinary chamber; however, a huge number of Cambodian people, old and young, do not even have even a basic knowledge pertaining this man: This is the fact that I hypothesize that Cambodian prospect to justice is apparently faint. The entire contents of the following compiled essay will unveil KHIEU Samphan’s on-the-surface biographical details.

I. Childhood

Mr. KHIEU Samphan who is considered as brother number five, after SALOTH Sar (Pol Pot), NUON Chea, IENG Sary and TA Mok, is believed to be born July 27, 1931 in Svay Rieg province. He is the oldest son in the family. His father was a local judge. After a compulsory education in his hometown, KHIEU Samphan pursued his education to Sisowat High School in Phnom Penh. During his time, Sisowat or Preah Sisowat High School was believed to be the top high school in Cambodia. Only the uptown-class or outstanding students would attend this educational institution.

KHIEU Samphan‘s childhood is not dramatically known, and until now, resources about his childhood are still inadequate and even unreliable. But he became better noted after winning the government scholarship to study in the University of Paris in Paris city, France.

Since his childhood, Mr. KHIEU Samphan was believed to be a “serious and good-natured” man, up to being entitled: A clean man. Because of these outstanding personalities, he was granted with government scholarship to pursue his studies in Paris, France, up to achieving Doctor of Economics. It was from here, the University of Paris, that Max Lenin ideologies have been inserted into Cambodian intellectuals who latter became leader of Democratic Kampuchea. History has told that the universities in Paris have created most of the Cambodian intellectuals.

Pursuant to American sources, Mr. KHIEU Samphan was reported to be one of the most outstanding students amongst his generation. Other astoundingly outstanding students in KHIEU Samphan’s generation including HOU Yun who mastered Economics and Law. Mr. HOU Yun (born 1930) was classified as the astoundingly physical and intellectual person and another genius was Mr. SON Sen who red education and literature.

II. Studies in Paris and Doctoral Thesis

Mr. KHIEU Samphan granted his Doctoral Degree in Economics from the University of Paris, a world-wide recognized university in humanity and materialistic and ideological invention.

KHIEU Samphan who was one of the pivotal members of Khmer Student Association in Paris selected a doctoral thesis, entitled: “Cambodia’s Economy and Industrial Development” and successfully defended this thesis. His Doctoral Degree in Economics was granted during the 1950s.

It can be brief that his doctoral thesis sided with national self-reliance. From deeper analysis into his doctoral thesis, more personalities of KHIEU Samphan would be more understandable. KHIEU Samphan accused the rich countries that have advanced industrialization are the factors to make the poor countries poorer. The core of hi doctoral thesis, was that he supported “dependency theory.” So what is dependency theory?

Dependency theory is the body of social science theories by various intellectuals, both from the Third World and the First World, that create a worldview which suggests that the wealthy nations of the world need a peripheral group of poorer states in order to remain wealthy.

Dependency theory states that the poverty of the countries in the periphery is not because they are not integrated into the world system, or not ‘fully’ integrated as is often argued by free market economists, but because of how they are integrated into the system.
The premises of dependency theory are:

-Poor nations provide natural resources, cheap labor, a destination for obsolete technology, and markets to the wealthy nations, without which they could not have the standard of living they enjoy.

-First World nations actively, but not necessarily consciously, perpetuate a state of dependency through various policies and initiatives. This state of dependency is multifaceted, involving economics, media control, politics, banking and finance, education, sport and all aspects of human resource development.

-Any attempt by the dependent nations to resist the influences of dependency will result in economic sanctions and/or military invasion and control.

The doctoral thesis herein is believed to be strictly adopted into political administration of Democratic Kampuchea. Not only the KHIEU Samphan’s doctoral thesis, HOU Yun’s doctoral thesis entitled: Cambodian peasants and their prospects for modernization, is also believed to have great influence on general policy of Democratic Kampuchea (DK).

Though these two doctoral thesis became the perils of Democratic Kampuchea’s political administration, these two people are yet to be accused of being the mastermind of the sins committed during DK’s reign. Yes, would mean their doctoral thesis intended to extinguish million of Cambodian lives and No, would mean the head of the Democratic Kampuchea may exaggerate the contents of the thesis or scapegoat the two intellectuals.

Because the intellectuality of Cambodian people who graduated from universities in Paris during the 1950s, Cambodia was praised as the first communist country that was led by intellectuals, in Asia.
III. Group of Khmer Students in Paris (Initiation of Political Ideology)

During the 1950s, Cambodian students who were studying in different universities in Paris, integrated to establish their own communist movement and this movement was believed to have very little connection with their home government. So of the returned members of this movement returned to their home countries and took up political leadership positions in DK government, including KHIEU Samphan, POL Pot, IENG Sary, to name just a very few. It was from this movement: Khmer Student Association, that KHIEU Samphan was converted into an all-out communist. The involvement of Cambodian students who returned from universities in Paris was to set up a movement to combat against LON Nol and Prince Norodom Sihanouk where were deemed as corrupt and egoist. Such the movement of these students was then improve to a regime, called “Democratic Kampuchea.”

IV. Political Life

KHIEU Samphan arrived back in Cambodia in 1959, with a doctoral degree in Economics from the University of Paris. Immediately after his arrival in Cambodia, he took up a position in the Faculty of Law in Phnom Penh; simultaneously, establish a French-language journal entitled, L’observateur. This journal strongly sided with the leftist. The purpose if this journal was to better the social justice and other field of humanity in Cambodia during that time. But this never resisted him from commitment to Cambodian social justice. It was from this journal that KHIEU Samphan won great popularity from the public, especially the students. However, this journal did not survive long; it was closed just after one year, KHIEU Samphan was arrested and undressed in the public by Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

After the coupe in 1970, Prince Norodom Sihanouk collaborated with other Khmer communists, including his former enemy: KHIEU Samphan, to resist against LON Nol government. In this coalition government, KHIEU Samphan was nominated as the Deputy Prime Minister, Minster of National Defense and the Commander-in-Chief of the Coalition Government. It was from these political events that KHIEU Samphan climbed to the top positions within the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

His political life during the Democratic Kampuchea era (1975-1978) was hard to unveil, due to the fact that confidentiality and secrecy were the leadership strategies of the DK leaders.

KHIEU Samphan is now living in his last military stronghold: Pailin Municipality, the province in the most west of Cambodia, bordered with Thailand. He is also under the guardianship of his brother-in-law IENG Sary’s soldiers.

V. Students Talk Trial with Ex-KR Leaders in Pailin

Extracted from The Cambodia Daily, Friday, August 26, 2005
A group of university students canvassing villages to conduct interviews about the Khmer Rouge regime and distribute information about the long-awaited tribunal ended up in unlikely conversations with former Khmer Rogue leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea in their Pailin Municipality homes last week.

Graduate student and Documentation Center of Cambodia intern Huy Vannak organized the group for a planned distribution of the documents in Pailin. And despite their apprehensions at bringing Khmer Rogue tribunal literature to the foremost former rebel stronghold, the group decided to seek out the aging communist leaders’ at their homes.

“I thought because of security and cooperation we should not go to the Khmer Rouge stronghold,” Huy Vanak said Thursday. “I told myself we should not fear the Khmer Rogue. During the Khmer Rouge regime they tried to frighten my mother, to frighten everybody…. I have learned a lot. Khmer rouge are not tigers. They are human beings.”

The group went to Khieu Samphan’s house near the eastern side of central Pailin, but were initially rejected despite a polite “chum reap sour” and assurances that they were students, not journalists.
Khieu Samphan, former Democratic Kampuchea head of state, eventually acquiesced and asked them to return later in the afternoon.

Next, the students went to find Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, who lives about 300 meters from the Thai border in Brother No 3 Ieng Sary’s son-in-law’s house, surrounded by his children and grandchildren.
“[Nuon Chea's] wife asked us ‘who are you, and where do you come from?”" Huy Vannak said. “We told her we are students and we ant to learn about Pailin. She said, ‘grandfather is sleeping, but it’s ok, you can talk to him.”"

Nuon Chea emphasized religion in their talk, and denied that religion had been suppressed under the Khmer Rouge.

He maintained that people were just busy building the country and so could not give alms, so monks were forced to feed themselves.

“I think Mr. Nuon Chea is open-minded, but when he answers it’s not so good,” said group member Ean Sopheap. “When I asked him questions, he looked at other people when he answered.”

“I never expected that I could meet a Khmer Rouge leader,” Ean Sophea added. “I was born in 1980.”

The students returned to Khieu Samphan’s home in the evening. “I feel that Khieu
Samphan is a trustworthy and gentle man. He is an intellectual from what I know,” said another member of the group, 22-year-old student Chheng Koemseng. “My parents used to tell me that Pol Pot’s men were very cruel, but when I met them face-to-face. I felt they are just old men, like my grandfather.”

However, Huy vanak was less than sympathetic. “The two guys told us only a small chapter of the history. We need more answers from them. Why did they give people less food? Why did they evacuate people? Why did they kill people? They said they did not know about the killing. How could they not know?”

The students discussed the tribunal very little with the aging Khmer Rouge leaders, but Khieu Samphan didn’t seem worried.

“Khieu Samphan said if they have a tribunal people will not be happy, because he is an honest guy and has devoted everything to the country, and people would not be happy with the court’s decision,” Huy Vannak said.
“I almost told him people would [still not be] happy if the court cut him into two million pieces.”

Lay Vicheka is a translator for the most celebrated translation agency in the Kingdom of Cambodia, Pyramid Translation Co.Ltd.. He is now hoding other two professions: freelance writer for Search Newspaper; focusing on social issues and students’ issues and Media Liaison Officer for Asia’s first free on-line IELTS consultation website. Lay Vicheka is the expert author for ezine and prolific article contributor to other websites around the world such as articlecity, 365articles, spiderden, talesofasia, etc (Just google him). He is also a volunteer Cambodian-newspapers columnist (Rasmey Kampuchea and Kampuchea Thmey). Lay Vicheka has great experience in law and politics, as he used to be legal and English-language assistant to a Cambodian member of parliament, migration experience (home-based business) and in writing. He is also member of a New York-based research company. Posting address: 221H Street 93, Tuol Sangke quarter, Russey Keo district, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Tel: 855 11 268 445, vichekalay@yahoo.com

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  • Posted On January 13, 2007
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