Cambodia: Year Ten

“This film is about extraordinary events which have allowed Asia’s Hitler to rise again and the prospect of the previously unthinkable happening again... The memories of 10 years ago are indelible and, now that the Vietnamese have left, almost everybody I know is in fear of their lives again.”

Ten years after Year Zero revealed to the world the horrors perpetrated by Pol Pot, John Pilger and director David Munro returned to Cambodia to mark the Vietnamese withdrawal and reflect fears among the population that the Khmer Rouge would return.

Cambodia: Year Ten shows how Pol Pot is living a life of luxury in Thailand, sustained by the United States and United Nations, with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supporting the American administration’s policy in secretly backing the Khmer rouge in the border camps. 

Dith Pran, subject of the Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, provides the voice of a Khmer speaking in English directly to viewers, while film shot by the Khmer Rouge themselves shows a raid on a village 30 kilometres inside Cambodia.

Pilger points out that the Coalition of the Government of Democratic Kampuchea, recognised by the United Nations, is “not a coalition, it’s not a government, it’s not democratic and it’s not in Kampuchea” – it is simply a cover behind which Pol Pot’s defunct regime can represent their victims. American arms are sent to the so-called non-communist members of the coalition, but President Bush Sr knows they will end up with the Khmer Rouge.

Meanwhile, in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, the denial of development aid is having a disastrous effect on the country’s infrastructure, with buildings, bridges and roads collapsing. Food distribution has been affected by the Khmer Rouge’s mining of highways and Pilger finds scenes reminiscent of 1979 in Battambang Hospital. One in five children in Cambodia are dying of malnutrition and preventable diseases – “and they die for political reasons”, he adds.

The massive public and political response to Cambodia: Year Ten led to Pilger presenting a follow-up film, Cambodia: Year Ten Update.

Cambodia: Year Ten (Viewpoint 89, Central Independent Television), ITV, 31 October 1989

Producer-director: David Munro (52 mins)