Thet Sambeth Documentary: Enemies of the People in the Killing Fields of Cambodia

Karen at The Lonely Conservative has viewed the full version of the Thet Sambeth, Enemies of the People PBS Documentary. Below you’ll see a 20 minute portion of this film. Thet Sambeth, his family and the brutality of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge is the story of communism. Sambeth tells the tales of the killing fields of Cambodia. Don’t be put off by the sub-titles. Sambeth speaks English in this film as well.

Nuom Chea "Brother Number 2" is now an old man

‘Ours was a clean regime…a peaceful regime’
The Lonely Conservative, July 24, 2011

Thet Sambeth’s father, brother and mother were killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s. Sambeth spent a decade of his life getting to know those responsible for the estimated 2 million killings in an effort to understand why. In the documentary below he interviewed some of the killers, as well as the number 2 man in the Khmer Rouge, Nuom Chea. Chea said he personally recruited Pol Pot to lead the party.

It took years before Sambeth was able to get Chea to open up to him, and when Chea did finally speak it was pretty much what you’d expect from a true communist believer. He talked about the plight of the working people. Not that the Khmer Rouge did anything to make life better, far from it. He talked about how they wanted to “transform the nature of society” and how all property had to be under collective control. Sambeth described the Khmer Rouge as more extreme and more communist than the Vietnamese, and that they wanted to be more communist than China.

Chea told Sambeth that theirs was a “clean regime… a peaceful regime,” you know, until they were “sabotaged” by “enemy spies.” Communists always blame others for their failures. After America left Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge became suspicious of the Vietnamese and enacted policies of reeducation. Those who refused to be reeducated were a problem for the party that needed to be solved and eliminated. The mission was to eliminate the ethnic minorities. Chea claims he was unaware of all of the villagers that were slaughtered, and couldn’t recall when he may have found out the information.

As for Sambeth’s family, his father was a member of the party, but spoke out when he found out all property had to be turned over to the state. For that he lost his life, and his wife was forced into a marriage with a Khmer Rouge cadre. She died a few years later. Sambeth’s brother also was killed by the party, even though he did work for them.

When asked about the individual and the nation, Chea replied “If we must choose one or the other, I choose the nation.” He has since been arrested for crimes against humanity.

Sambeth also interviewed some of the people who carried out the killings. What I found odd is a sense of true regret for what they did under orders from above, especially when speaking of killing children, but then moments of lightheartedness when describing their actions.

After watching the entire documentary I don’t think you’ll come away understanding why so many innocents were slaughtered, I know I didn’t. It’s just another example of communism and the misery it brings about. The communists always blame others for their failures, and the true believers buy into the excuses, or they blame the regime, as if a different regime would have done things better. If only those evil people weren’t running things, they would have found utopia.

Something else I took away from this – look at the living conditions, even today, in Cambodia. The United States in comparison seems like utopia. I’ll still never understand why people would think we need fundamental change. The poor in America are so much better off, but rather than look to places like Cambodia to see how good we all have it, some politicians want you to look at the expensive neighborhood near you and envy those who have more.

The PBS documentary Enemies of the People is about an hour and a half long, but it’s worth watching. The friend who emailed the link to the video called it “An hour and a half of sadness.” It is profoundly sad, but, you know, if we don’t know history we’re bound to repeat it.

Watch the full episode. See more POV.

Enemies of the People (video)

  • A great point about how good we have it. What we call poverty, is a dream in Africa.

    One other thought… In Cambodia we see the most Marxist of all the Communist governments. They even tried to implement his ideas of equal population dispersion by forcing people to abandon the cities. It’s no coincidence that they were to most devastated of all the Communist nationsn