Having laid the country to waste and turned the population into deaf and mute beasts of burden, the ruling clique started to self-destruct by indulging in demented purges. And then, in this situation of instability and weakness, Pol Pot chose to launch border attacks against the Vietnamese enemy. Reacting to these insane provocations, the Vietnamese army, five times superior in strength, entered Phnom Penh after a Blitzkrieg whose swiftness and ease took everyone by surprise, including the invaders themselves.

Yet, after this complete and final collapse of their actual power, the Khmer Rouge did not vanish entirely. In order to counter an imaginary Soviet–Vietnamese menace (allegedly bent on subverting all South-East Asia), an improbable Sino–American alliance enabled the Khmer Rouge to survive artificially under two forms: in a few pockets of jungle on the Thai border, as smugglers and traffickers of rubies and precious timber; and in New York, as official representatives to the United Nations of a non-existent ‘Democratic Kampuchea’. Thus, for another dozen years, the votes of the murderers carried in the General Assembly as much weight as the votes of – let us say – Germany, Japan or … the Vatican. (After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Kissinger asked the foreign affairs minister of Thailand to convey to Pol Pot the friendly wishes of the American people, adding for his interlocutor’s benefit: "Of course, these people are murderous thugs, but this should not affect our good relations." The administration of Jimmy Carter – under the influence of Brzezinski, and notwithstanding the rhetorical emphasis which the president himself placed on human rights – pursued essentially the same line.)

Simon Leys
Simon Leys
In The Cambodian Genocide, The Monthly, September 2009.