Gina Chon and Sambeth Thet
Behind the Killing Fields
A Khmer Rouge Leader and One of his Victims
University of Pennsylvania Press 2010
I’m not sure what it would feel like to interview a leader of a genocidal regime.
Asking why people decide it is right and necessary to kill many thousands is one of the standard questions in genocide studies. But it is one most of us face at a distance, in the classroom, while listening to a radio broadcast, or when present at a moment of remembrance personal or public.
Gina Chon and Sambeth Thet, co-authors of Behind the Killing Fields: A Khmer Rouge Leader and one of his Victims (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), had the opportunity to ask that question in a much more personal way. Between them, the two spent hundreds of hours interviewing Nuon Chea, Brother Number Two in the Khmer Rouge. The result is a book that both reviews Nuon Chea’s life as a revolutionary and offers a glimpse into his attempts to wrestle with the past, both his own and his country’s.
Alongside this story, Chon and Thet offer a brief narrative of Thet’s experience during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The losses he and his family suffered make his encounter with Nuon Chea especially fascinating.