Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Ta Mok, the infamous one-legged KR commander, known for good reason as The Butcher. He died in custody in 2006. His personal fiefdom in the final years of the Khmer Rouge movement was in and around Anlong Veng in northern Cambodia. He ruled it with an iron-fist (just ask Pol Pot, oh sorry, you can't) as well as a deft-touch, judging by the schools and a hospital he apparently set up. I was there a couple of weeks ago and visited his large house in the middle of town, which is one of the main sights on the Anlong Veng 'tourist circuit', as well as his tomb and his retreat on top of the nearby escarpment. At the townhouse, which he built in 1994, the now-bare rooms reveal little of the man or the movement except a series of almost primitive wall-paintings that remain, surprisingly unscathed by graffiti. When his stronghold was overrun by the army they collected over sixty pieces of ancient Angkorean sculpture and transferred them to the Angkor Conservation depot in Siem Reap. Large sandstone blocks stolen from various temple sites still litter the yard of the townhouse. The paintings on display show an elongated Preah Vihear on the ground floor, Angkor Wat, a map of the country and an idyllic view of the Cambodian countryside. These rooms once hosted the KR hierarchy in the death throes of a movement that finally came to grief in 1998, including the trial and death of their former feared ruler Pol Pot. You can find many people in Anlong Veng who recall Ta Mok's memory with reverence, you can find a lot more that wish he had survived to face justice at the current trials. But fate is sometimes not that kind or just.
The painter of ths 1st gopura at Preah Vihear was a little limited on providing perspective in his artwork
Presumably Preah Vihear was a favourite temple of Ta Mok - it was certainly a temple that was in KR hands for long periods
The 5th gopura at Preah Vihear shown in its mountainous location in this wall-painting on the ground floor of Ta Mok's townhouse
Perhaps important strategy decisions were taken using this wall-painted country map on the 1st floor of Ta Mok's home
An idyllic countryside scene that never existed under the Khmer Rouge - they would've killed all these animals for their meat