Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pol Pot's birthplace

This house belongs to Saloth Nhep, the younger brother of Pol Pot. It stands on the same spot, just three miles from the provincial capital of Kompong Thom, as the house in which Nhep and his older brother, Saloth Sar, known to the world as Pol Pot, were both born. The original house, built in a similar style, was destroyed in a bombing raid during the civil war. The house is set back about thirty yards from the River Sen, separated by a cart-track, in a village called Prek Sbauv. It could be any house in any village, anywhere in Cambodia.

I visited the village in March 2002. My pal Sokhom, who lives in Kompong Thom, mentioned that Pol Pot was born nearby and asked if I wanted to visit his home. When we arrived in the village, the children in the photo made a fuss of us, as Nhep's wife told us that he was having a siesta but she'd wake him if we wished to meet him. I declined, he was asleep and I wasn't prepared, so I took a couple of photos and played some games with the kids before returning to town. Because of the notoriety of his brother, Nhep, now 80 years old and pictured right, has been interviewed many times by the world's media and explains that though he was very close to his brother in their early years, they lost touch and he was was as surprised, and dismayed, as anyone to find out, in the late '70s, that his brother was the leader of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

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