Ieng Sary, a man who served as the foreign minster of the Khmer Rouge, recently died at the age of 87. Seth Mydans has an article about him (here) in the New York Times where he says the following:
“Mr. Ieng Sary was born on Oct. 24, 1925, in Tra Vinh province of Southern Vietnam to an ethnic Cambodian father and an ethnic Chinese mother. His birth name was Kim Trang and he later used the revolutionary name Van.”
Ieng Sary studied in France for a period of time, and then returned to Cambodia and taught history in the 1950s. In 1960 he then joined the Kampuchean Workers Party, a group that came to be referred to by others as the Khmer Rouge.
The Khmer Rouge opposed the government of Cambodia, led by Norodom Sihanouk. However, but they ended up working together with him. In March of 1970, a military officer, Lon Nol, took over control of the country while Sihanouk was overseas.
Sihanouk then joined with the Khmer Rouge to form a new organization, the National United Front of Kampuchea (or FUNK – its French acronym). Sihanouk did so from Beijing, where he took up residence, while the Khmer Rouge were based in northeastern Cambodia.
Mydans goes on to say in his report concerning this period that “In 1970, as the Khmer Rouge gained momentum and as war raged in neighboring Vietnam, [Ieng Sary] went to Hanoi to establish a radio station for his revolutionary movement. He then flew to Beijing, where he was given a permanent base in 1971. . . He returned permanently to Cambodia in April 1975. . . when the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh and began transforming the country.”
I did not know that Ieng Sary had established a radio station with the help of the North Vietnamese. So I tried to find some documents about this period in online archives. As luck would have it, in the National Archives of Australia I quickly came across a reference to related material. I didn’t find anything about Ieng Sary, but I did find something interesting concerning a radio broadcast that was “detected” after FUNK had been formed.
In late August, the Cambodian government reported that two messages from Sihanhouk had been broadcast over a clandestine radio. To quote the report that was made to the Australian government concerning this, it stated that,
“The first message on 28 August allegedly admitted the presence of North Vietnamese forces in Cambodia. It called the Cambodian peasants to give greater assistance to them. . . The second message, in what the Cambodian government insists was Sihanouk’s own voice, is reported to have violently attacked the USSR for supporting Lon Nol and to have stated that Mao and Communist China were Cambodia’s only read friends.”
After the Cambodian government reported having detected these broadcasts, which apparently were on a special wavelength, Sihanouk and the North Vietnamese government both denounced these claims.
This is what Sihanouk said,
“The Lon Nol-Sirit Matak-Ngoc Thanh gang, which has dealt many despicable blows at me and at the National United Front of Kampuchea so as to slander and discredit us, has just found another means of damaging our reputation. This ‘new means’ was offered to it by the American CIA. It consists of setting up a ‘clandestine’ broadcasting station outside Phnom Penh to pass itself off as the voice of FUNK.”
An American official in Phnom Penh told Australian officials there that he did not think the CIA was behind it, however the Americans had been given by the Cambodian government information about the wavelength that the messages were broadcast over and they were trying to determine where the message had been broadcast from. I found a later report that mentioned Stung Treng as the possible place from where the broadcasts had been made. Stung Treng was in the general area where the Khmer Rouge were based.
Eventually the transcripts of the broadcasts were given to the Americans by the Cambodian government, and a translation was made. This is how one of the messages began:
“We express our thanks to our supporters from North Vietnam who are in the act of trying with FUNK forces to look for the means to bring back Norodom Sihanouk to the throne.”
“Brethren [I think this is supposed to be ‘comrades’] and all of our dear listeners might have seen the North Vietnamese forces which are now operating in Cambodia and you might have noticed their gallantry.”
“Our beloved head of state [i.e., Sihanouk] has called on all the comrades and all of you to support and understand these North Vietnamese forces. For these forces are carrying out operations in an area located several thousands kilometers from their country, and they are not capable of understanding our customs thoroughly.”
“For this reason our comrades are requested to, if they commit inappropriate acts, not to think that they are our hereditary or traditional enemy, for they are in fact doing our work.”
At this point in time, the North Vietnamese government’s official position was that there were no North Vietnamese soldiers in Cambodia. So it did likely make sense to some people at the time that this might have been produced by the CIA in order for it to be “discovered” by the Cambodian government.
On the other hand, given that it was apparently broadcast on a special frequency (but how then did the Cambodian government detect it?), and given that Ieng Sary had apparently recently gone to Hanoi to establish a radio station for Khmer Rouge/FUNK, I wonder. . .
Was this a CIA operation? Or was it a botched attempt (“botched” because it was never supposed to be detected by the Cambodian government) by Ieng Sary’s new radio station to encourage Cambodians in the Khmer Rouge base area to assist the North Vietnamese troops in the region? Given that Ieng Sary went to Hanoi to establish a radio station, wouldn’t that also make sense?
In any case, there is a lot more to this issue. I’ve attached the transcript of one of the alleged broadcasts below. For more on this, consult this file at the Australian National Archives. The information about this issue is around page 100 in that file (look both before and after page 100).