Brazil, whose real name was Kong Samreth, was once known as a local hood who worked out of a noodle shop near a high school just south of downtown. Students hired him to beat up their romantic rivals. He joined the army in 1990, at the age of 20 or 21. By 1992, he was a second lieutenant, and his unit had a new commander: Hing Bun Heang.
This article was researched and written by Rich Garella and Eric Pape. Both of us lived in Cambodia at the time of the grenade attack and came to know many of the people affected by it. We saw what happened to the ambitious effort to bring democracy and development to Cambodia, and learned how the West chooses, finances and inoculates its winners, and what happens when it abandons its losers.
Rich Garella is a journalist whose writing has been published in Los Angeles magazine, the LA Weekly, IPI Global Journalist and others and a consultant who has worked for MoveOn.org and other organizations. His short film Polygraph was chosen from among more than 1000 entries as a finalist in MoveOn’s “Bush in 30 Seconds” contest and was shown widely on U.S. television in 2004.
Garella lived in Cambodia from 1995 to 1997, working as an editor at The Cambodia Daily and later as executive editor at the short-lived Cambodia Today/Kampuchea Tngay Nih (shut down after the 1997 coup d’etat) before returning to the United States.
Drawn by the disintegrating political climate, he went back to Cambodia in 1998 to work as communications officer for Cambodia’s opposition leader, Sam Rainsy for ten months; in 2000 to research this article; and in 2003 as a consultant to the International Republican Institute during parliamentary elections.
As a founder of Loud Mouth Films, he produced the Peabody Award–winning documentary film Who Killed Chea Vichea?, released in 2011.
Eric Pape worked as a journalist for The Cambodia Daily from 1996 until 1997 and for the Phnom Penh Post during the run-up to the 1998 elections. His writing there focused on human rights abuses, politics, international involvement in Cambodia, and the electoral process.
Pape has also worked as a journalist in Europe, Africa, and Latin America, where he wrote about international politics, war crimes, drugs and trafficking. In the US, his articles have focused on exiled ethnic groups, the criminal justice system and politics.
He has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, Newsweek International, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Spin magazine, Los Angeles magazine, the LA Weekly, London’s Independent on Sunday, Salon, and other publications and wire services in Asia, Europe and the Americas.He is now based in Paris.
Human Rights Watch | 12 Nov. 2012
The 68-page report, “‘Tell Them That I Want to Kill Them’: Two Decades of Impunity in Hun Sen’s Cambodia,” documents key cases of unsolved killings of political activists, journalists, opposition politicians, and others by Cambodian security forces since the 1991 Paris Agreements, which were signed by 18 countries, including the five permanent United Nations Security Council members. The Paris Agreements and the subsequent United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission were supposed to usher in a new era of democracy, human rights, and accountability in Cambodia. More than 300 people have been killed in politically motivated attacks since then, yet not one case has resulted in a credible investigation and conviction.
The report’s title is a quote from Hing Bun Heang, then deputy chief of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, in response to a journalist’s question about his alleged role in the killing of at least 16 people in a coordinated grenade attack on opposition leader Sam Rainsy in March 1997. The UN and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) implicated the bodyguard unit in the attack and identified Hing Bun Heang as being in operational control. Hing Bun Heang was later promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and is now deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.