Friday, February 10, 2012
Elizabeth Becker speaks at last night's exhibition openingDecember 1978 and just a few days before the Khmer Rouge were overthrown by the Vietnamese, two journalists and a British professor were invited to visit Phnom Penh by one of the men currently on trial at the ECCC for crimes against humanity, Ieng Sary. No other western reporters had been to Cambodia since April 1975. One of the journalists, Elizabeth Becker, last night opened an exhibition, with the long-winded title of A Reporter's Dangerous Guided Tour through Democratic Kampuchea, at Bophana Center detailing that visit in pictures and audio interviews. Becker was then a reporter for the Washington Post, was already well-versed at reporting from Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge leadership wanted international exposure and support for their fight against Vietnam. The whole visit was phony, in that the journalists only got to see what the leadership wanted them to see, including empty streets in the capital and false cooperatives with well-dressed and well-fed cadre. But they did get to interview Ieng Sary and on their last day, Pol Pot. Those interviews can be heard at the exhibition. The visit ended in disaster when they were attacked in their guesthouse on their final night and the professor, Malcolm Caldwell, a supporter of the regime, was murdered. Becker went onto write the acclaimed When The War Was Over, which has been translated in Khmer, as well as the story of Bophana, a heroine of Tuol Sleng.
Elizabeth Becker with DC-Cam founder Youk Chang. Her photo of Pol Pot can also be seen.
An earnest discussion between Becker and Roland Eng, Cambodia's Ambassador-At-Large