Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Not on trial

A mock-Angkorean temple stupa being erected to house Ta Mok's remains
With the Khmer Rouge Tribunal beginning again yesterday with the trial of Duch, it reminded me that last week I visited the final resting place of one of the most feared Khmer Rouge hardline leaders, who never managed to make it to stand trial for crimes against humanity, dying in custody whilst awaiting the formation of the Tribunal in July 2006. Ta Mok, The Butcher, Brother No 5 or Chhit Choeun to give him his rightful name, was the one-legged chief of staff and feared during the KR regime of the 70s and later ruled the northern part of the KR territory, operating out of Anlong Veng. To some of his followers he is remembered fondly, by others he's remembered with a cold chill as a murderer with the blood of thousands on his hands. As the KR began to unravel in the late 90s, it was Ta Mok who ended Pol Pot's command of the KR by placing him on trial, with the former Brother No 1 dying soon after during his house arrest. Almost a year later, in March 1999, Ta Mok was finally arrested and placed in custody awaiting trial. He never made it. And with his death, many felt robbed of justice. However, in Anlong Veng, Ta Mok is recalled with a degree of affection, owned a large house in the town which is open to the public to visit and his stupa, in the pagoda of Wat Srah Chhouk, is in the process of being upgraded, at the cost of his family, in a mock-Angkorean style. You can see the work being undertaken, which began four months ago, in these photos. More pictures from Ta Mok's house will follow soon.
The cement coffin of Ta Mok at Wat Srah Chhouk, just off the road towards the border
Ta Mok is recalled fondly by many residents of Anlong Veng
Tiles from the stupa roof are being glazed before being affixed
Setting the tiles in their mould before glazing takes place

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