Cambodia – Quiet Days in Pailin

Pailin, a malaria-ridden, ruby-mining town and secretive stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, during whose rule from 1975 to 1979 some two million people died on the Killing Fields of Cambodia, whether through forced labor, disease, or malnutrition, remained a closed city even during UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia, 1992–1993).

When Ieng Sary, deputy premier under Pol Pot and foreign minister of Democratic Kampuchea, split from the Khmer Rouge central command along with the Pailin Division 415 and the Phnom Malai Division 450 in August 1996, an informal arrangement with the Phnom Penh coalition ensured that two of his commanders were able to remain governors of the area. Following the cessation of all aid from China, the Khmer Rouge, whose hardliners are based in Anlong Veng, suffered a decisive blow when it lost the gem and timber trade to the dissidents in Pailin. Under Ieng Sary – whose Democratic National Union Movement sided with Phnom Penh strongman Hun Sen – Pailin is now being transformed into an economically autonomous region. It is a private fiefdom in the making, run by a man who still denies any role in the Khmer Rouge atrocities and genocide.

The reportage was commissioned and published by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Magazin, Frankfurt a. M.