NA President’s Memoirs Launched

AKP Phnom Penh, November 26, 2018 —

The English edition of President of the Cambodian National Assembly (NA) Samdech Akka Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin’s memoirs was launched here this morning.

The launch took place ahead of the commemoration of the 40th Founding Anniversary of Solidarity Front for the Development of Cambodian Motherland to be held on Dec. 2, 2018 under the presidency of Samdech Heng Samrin.

Entitled “The People’s Struggle: Cambodia Reborn”, the book offers a rare insight into the realities of guerrilla war on the ground and is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the vision behind the country’s rebirth 40 years ago.

The new book, published by EDM Books in Singapore, the headquarters of Editions Didier Millet founded in Paris in 1979, has been on sale in Phnom Penh since mid-November at US$28.50 at Monument Books and being flagged on Singapore publisher’s website as of today. The book is expected to be available through Amazon in early 2019.

Born in 1934, Samdech Heng Samrin was the founding chairman of the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea, launched at a congress in Kratie province, on Dec. 2, 1978, where he announced an 11-point plan to overthrow the genocidal Pol Pot regime.

Samdech Heng Samrin later served as President of the State Council of the People’s Republic of Kampuchea and Secretary-General of the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party.

As well as chairing the NA, Samdech Heng Samrin is currently Honorary President of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and also current Chair of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), set up by former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1993.

Samdech Heng Samrin is among the few surviving leaders of the 14-member United Front. Others include Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, the Prime Minister and CPP President, along with H.E. Ms. Senator Mean Sam An, H.E. Ros Samay, a Government Advisor with the rank of Senior Minister, and H.E. Chan Ven, former NA Secretary General.

The book includes new details about the death of So Phim, the long-serving Eastern Zone commander of the People’s Revolutionary Army of Kampuchea which overthrew the U.S.-backed forces of the Lon Nol regime in 1975.

Samdech Heng Samrin recalls one of his final meetings with the ailing commander at a temple in Prey Salet commune in Pea Reang district in Prey Veng province in 1978, shortly after some of So Phim’s bodyguards were killed by Pol’s Pot’s forces near Phnom Penh.

“He was in a state of despair,” Samdech Heng Samrin writes, explaining how So Phim agreed to be moved away from Pol Pot’s forces to Srei Santhor district in Kampong Cham province. “In Srei Santhor, we had 300 soldiers on standby for any unexpected events.”

Samdech Heng Samrin says he then returned to Prey Veng province and was preparing an evacuation of military units towards the east when a courier suddenly delivered a letter from So Phim written in red and black ink:

“Please be highly vigilant and decisive in the cause of resistance until the final drop of blood,” the letter said. “If you are strongly determined, decisive and brave in our cause, there are only two consequences, life or death. If we die, we will die with dignity; we must not sit back and wait to be killed.”

Samdech Heng Samrin ordered a team of ten heavily armed officers to escort So Phim from Srei Santhor district towards the border with Vietnam the next morning. But “as they were leaving, Pol Pot’s forces attacked,” he says. “So Phim never made it to Vietnam.”

“Enemy aircraft distributed leaflets accusing Eastern Zone Commander So Phim of being a traitor; the deputy secretary of the district, a man called Han, ordered troops to kill him. In armed clashes between his bodyguards and the district troops, So Phim was killed in Prek Pou, the then district capital. Also killed were his wife Phan, also known as Grandma Karo, and two of their children,” according to the book.

“They used his body as evidence that the accusations of treachery against him were true and that he was in fact dead. Chhean, the party secretary for Region 22, and Sarun, the logistics chief for the Eastern Zone, were also killed.”

Besides, the book recounts early clashes with the Southwestern Zone under the command of Ta Mok as the revolutionary forces were fighting to overthrow the Lon Nol regime.

Samdech Heng Samrin says the first incident involved the mysterious disappearance around Phnom Chiso of ten of his soldiers from the Eastern Zone including a company commander.

“As commander of the zone, So Phim wrote a letter to Ta Mok. It was to be delivered personally by Oy, commander of the Twelfth Battalion. With the letter in hand, he went to see Ta Mok in Bati district in Takeo province,” he says.

“Ta Mok answered that he did not know and that they arrested the enemy only. We never saw our soldiers again. Later, there was another episode along the border between Saang and Prey Kabass districts at Prek Ambel. This was a major conflict involving infantry from the two zones exchanging mortar fire.”

Samdech Heng Samrin says tensions with the Southwestern Zone continued even immediately after the revolutionary forces toppled the Lon Nol regime in April, 1975.

“The Southwestern Zone warned forces from Eastern Zone not to walk across to the western side of Monivong Boulevard. Chhouk Sao, the deputy commander of my 126th Regiment, crossed the white line,” Samdech says. His deputy was then arrested and “detained for almost a night without food until I managed to get him set free.”

The book also mentions about the withdrawal from Phnom Penh. Samdech Heng Samrin says his Eastern Zone forces guarded Phnom Penh for a month before being replaced by the Central Force and ordered to leave. “They were strict and firm – and absolute. Once they issued a command, the job had to be done without fail,” he recalls.

“My units withdrew our forces to the eastern side of Monivong Bridge at Chbar Ampov Market. I encamped the headquarters of the 126th Regiment at Prek Eng in Chrouy Ampil in Kien Svay district.”

“As my forces withdrew from Phnom Penh, central security guards checked all of our backpacks before we crossed Monivong Bridge. Personal items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste were confiscated if there were more than one. But we were allowed to keep more than one hoe.”

By Khan Sophirom