Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Artwork of The Butcher

Ta Mok's former townhouse in Anlong Veng is a tourist stop for Khmers and foreigners alike
Some of the wall-paintings on the 1st floor of Ta Mok's main residence in Anlong Veng
With the Khmer Rouge trials underway in earnest, one of the Khmer Rouge leaders who won't be up for public scrutiny is 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
Ta Mok collected sculpture from various temple sites, most likely including Preah Vihear
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
One of two Angkor Wat paintings, this one a little worse for wear on the ground floor
A second Angkor Wat impression - remind me not to employ this artist for my own room
An idyllic countryside scene that never existed under the Khmer Rouge - they would've killed all these animals for their meat

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Anonymous sunnyp said...

Hahaha, i liked you captions on the pictures. Yes, i would definitely not hire that horrible artist, my dog could do better! :D

April 8, 2009 at 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't figure you were such a ferocious art critic!

April 8, 2009 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger David-Baptiste Chirot said...


Thanks for this great piece and al the images!
The paintings remind me of Social Realism gone a bit astray--
"Official painting styles" imposed by regimes who felt comfortable only with representational art, and that of the most "bland, conformist" kind--
It had never occured to me before that the KR might have employed Socialist Realism in their arts, visual arts--(I didn't imagine that any art at was allwoed--)
i have been trying to find out more about Pol Pot's involvement with French poetry, especially his love for the works of Paul Verlaine. (Paul/Pol???)I've been working on a series of pieces examining poetry and art in relation with torture, genocide ethnic cleansings--how language is involved in these--my oldest son lives in Roi Et in Thailand--i worked two years plus with Cambodian refugees in Vermont who were our next door neighbors and that got us involved what Cambodian community North of the very large one in Lowell, MA--oneof my sons and i became especially involved as when one of our bneighbor was crushed by hisown car out front , working on it--and ice melted that his jack was standing on--my son and i saw his ghost many times until he was being conceived into his next life and parents--a monk came from Lowell to speak with us and have us to a special ceremony--it broke everyone's heart as he had lived through so much hell and arrive here and then --eerily fulfilling a bumper sticker of his that said--this car kills--been killed by his own car--not a day goes by that i dont rmeneber him and his housemate in my thoughts and pryaers--and al the people i met in the camodian community--
thanks so much for this--
all my best to you for a great summer-
ps i might ask you at some point in time--if i cd use your piece as reference to quote from and show some images?
if you prefer not to, i won't ask again--
thanking you again--d
i could also if you like just include the hole piece by you entire
but that is getting ahead of myself
truly though this is an extraordinary piece and i respect and admire you for following your dream to Cambodia
so far i'm digging into the poetry connection--and found some very interesting articles on line--also re a Cambodian poet published and studied in the usa-and who fought with Lon Nol--
i read an speak French which ironically helps--i mean ironically as later on pol pot had to cover up his past as a French culture teacher!

May 26, 2009 at 9:43 PM  

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