The Former Khmer Rouge Cadres Who Turned to God for Salvation
By Dene-Hern Chen
by Kuch Naren
February 16, 2017
More photos by Thomas Cristofoletti can be
In Pailin, a province in Cambodia established for former members of Pol Pot’s regime, Christianity is offering the redemption that Buddhism’s karma cannot.
In 1979, Kong Duong was chosen. Plucked from a group of soldiers preparing to travel abroad, the 18-year-old was singled out by the feared leader of the Khmer Rouge.
“We were transported to meet Pol Pot for recruitment to study in China, but Pol Pot fell in love with my voice,” Kong Duong says. “So he asked me to work for his radio station instead.”
Kong Duong was appointed chief propagandist and, as the head of the Khmer Rouge radio station from 1979 to 1996, his sonorous timbre became well known among supporters of the genocidal regime. His was, in effect, the voice of Pol Pot during a tumultuous period.
After almost four years, during which about two million Cambodians died from starvation, execution and overwork, Vietnamese troops ousted the Khmer Rouge leadership from Phnom Penh on January 7, 1979. The party’s supporters fled west to Cambodia’s border with Thailand, where they continued to engage the Vietnamese in guerilla conflict. Kong Duong played his part by waging a verbal war of propaganda over the radio waves.
Today, he has a very different master: the Lord. Having settled in Pailin province, Kong Duong now professes to be a Christian, and hosts a radio programme, New Signs, that broadcasts Christian commentary across Cambodia. And judging by the listeners who call in, his audience remains much the same.
“Most of the callers are former Khmer Rouge cadres,” he confirms, speaking in the car park of his impressive Pailin mansion (Kong Duong is also a government official).