Chhang Song

BANGKOK, Thailand -- "As the insurgents entered his office, the
admiral placed his pistol against his right temple, and pulled the

Hours earlier, then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk rejected Cambodia's
surrender and "states only that those still heading the government of
the republic must be condemned to death."

After 40 years, insider Chhang Song for the first time has publicly
described crucial details of his government's fate when America lost
its war and retreated, enabling Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge guerrillas to
seize control five days later on April 17, 1975.

Most testimonies about Cambodia at that time portray the nearly two
million people who perished during Pol Pot's 1975-79 ultra-Maoist

Other accounts trace Washington's role in Cambodia's destruction,
including a U.S. bombing strategy which slowly began in 1965 under
President Lyndon Johnson and escalated during President Richard
Nixon's massive assaults in 1973.

Chhang Song, born in 1939, was the last minister of information in the
U.S.-backed, coup-installed, doomed regime of Cambodian President Lon

Lon Nol and Chhang Song escaped to America when Pol Pot achieved victory.

A few days before, Chhang Song met with Lon Nol and Prime Minister
Long Boret to plan their government's emergency evacuation from the
capital Phnom Penh to the seaport of Kampong Som, now known as

But Pol Pot's jungle-hardened Khmer Rouge were already infiltrating Phnom Penh.

At 4 a.m. on April 17, the final day, Chhang Song and his panicking
colleagues huddled in a Phnom Penh pagoda, awaiting rescue.

"Thirty of the republic's top civil and military leaders, their wives
and children, were there. The men wore their khaki uniforms.

"The prime minister and Gen. Sutsakhan and their families were there,"
Chhang Song wrote in his first public description of the coming
bloodshed, published on Monday (April 20) in Cambodia's Khmer Times

They grimly waited in vain while seeing their own warplanes above the
pagoda, bombing the front lines.

Their last hope was Prince Sihanouk, who Lon Nol ousted in a coup and
was now sheltering in Beijing which supported Pol Pot.

So the government cabled Sihanouk and "stated that the republican army
would surrender to him and welcome him back as head of state," Chhang
Song said.

"Prince Sihanouk has refused our offer," Prime Minister Boret told
Chhang Song and other shocked officials who sought sanctuary in the
military's headquarters.

"He states only that those still heading the government of the
republic must be condemned to death," Boret told them after receiving
Prince Sihanouk's reply from China.

"Prince Sihanouk had already condemned to death President Lon Nol and
Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak, his cousin. These were the two principal
architects of the 1970 coup which toppled him," Chhang Song wrote.

Sihanouk soon returned to his Phnom Penh palace and briefly served as
Pol Pot's international mouthpiece before dying in 2012 as Cambodia's
king while again residing in Beijing.

Meanwhile on April 17, 1975, Khmer Rouge guerrillas were now seizing
the regime's naval base.

"The insurgents approached a door of a small office. It did not look
imposing, but it belonged to Admiral Sarendy, the Chief of Naval

"As the insurgents entered his office, the admiral placed his pistol
against his right temple, and pulled the trigger," Chhang Song said.

The last Prime Minister, Long Boret, could have escaped on another
helicopter but his wife brought too much luggage plus too many
relatives and friends.

"I said to take only a few things," Long Boret lamented at the Olympic
Stadium liftoff site. "It's impossible for us to carry all these
people and their luggage with us."

But the helicopter needed to immediately take off before it was too late.

"'Alright, please go ahead,' the prime minister said, indicating he
would take another helicopter with this wife and family. It was a
fatal decision," Chhang Song wrote.

"Later that day, according to the most reliable available information,
the Khmer Rouge victors placed Prime Minister Boret on a garbage truck
and sent him to the Cité Sportif.

"There a Khmer Rouge soldier fired a single bullet through his kidney
and left him to die a slow, agonizing death. His wife and children
were executed by machine gun fire the same day."

The Cité Sportif execution site has since become the location of the
American Embassy.

After escaping in 1975, Chhang Song became a dual U.S.-Cambodian
citizen and worked with Washington's politicians, including
then-Senator Bob Dole and, in 1977, then-Congressman Stephen Solarz.

President Ronald Reagan cited Chhang Song's organization, Save
Cambodia, for a presidential award in 1983.

In 1989 he returned to Cambodia and advised Prime Minister Hun Sen's
government during the 1990s and has since divided his time between
America and Cambodia.