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Jul-26-2010 00:29printcommentsVideo

Enemies of the People Tells Story of Cambodian Genocide

The Khmer Rouge ran what is regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most brutal regimes. Yet the Killing Fields of Cambodia remain unexplained. Until now.

Thet Sambath
Thet Sambath is the journalist that spent 10 years compiling the incredible information for this documentary. Photo:

(NEW YORK) - One of the most harrowing and compelling personal documentaries of our time, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE exposes for the first time the truth about the Killing Fields and the Khmer Rouge who were behind Cambodias horrific genocide.

More than simply an inquiry into Cambodias experience, however, ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE is a profound meditation on the nature of good and evil, shedding light on the capacity of some people to do terrible things and for others to forgive them.

Winner of a dozen top documentary festival awards, including a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and the Grand Jury Award at the Full Frame Documentary Festival, this is a riveting film that takes audiences as close to witnessing evil as they are ever likely to get.

It is also a personal journey into the heart of darkness by journalist/filmmaker Thet Sambath, whose family was wiped out in the Killing Fields, but whose patience and discipline elicits unprecedented on-camera confessions from perpetrators at all levels of the Khmer Rouge hierarchy. This is investigative journalism of the highest order.

In 1974, Thet Sambaths father became one of the nearly two million people who were murdered by the Khmer Rouge when he refused to give them his buffalo. Sambaths mother was forced to marry a Khmer Rouge militiaman and died in childbirth in 1976, while his eldest brother disappeared in 1977. Sambath himself escaped Cambodia at age 10 when the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979.

Thet Sambath and Nuon Chea ('Brother Number Two')

Fast forward to 1998, and Sambath, now a journalist, got to know the children of some senior Khmer Rouge cadre and gradually earned their trust. Then, for a decade, he spent weekends visiting the home of the most senior surviving leader, Nuon Chea, aka Brother Number Two under Pol Pot. But he never used to say anything different from what he told Western journalists, says Sambath, I was low-ranking, I knew nothing, I am not a killer. Then one day he said to me Sambath, I trust you, you are the person I would like to tell my story to. Ask me what you want to know.

For the next five years he told me the truth, as he saw it, including all the details of killing.

Sambath also won the confidence of lower-level Khmer Rouge soldiers, now ordinary fathers and grandfathers, who demonstrated to him how they slit peoples throats. For these murderers, it was the first time they admitted what they had done. He taped their interactions and discussions about the killings, and together with British documentarian Rob Lemkin they created this landmark film.

For Sambath, it has been an ongoing, lifelong personal journey to discover what was behind such horror; he neglected both his family and his own happiness in the search for truth with hope of reconciliation.

ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE is at once a cinematically beautiful, chillingly insightful, and deeply personal piece of documentary filmmaking.

Watch this trailer for the ground-breaking Sundance winning documentary sensation:

The Khmer Rouge regime that ruled Cambodia in the late seventies left behind at least 1.5 million people dead. Now this dark chapter in Cambodia's history is retold in a new documentary - through the testimony of one of the former regime's top officials.

The documentary, Enemies of the People, recently received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Reasay Poch traveled to Utah and has this story. VOA's Brian Allen narrates.

Go to the official website:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Anonymous February 8, 2011 11:57 am (Pacific time)

Please let us know how we can order this DVD for Education use.

Sanmony Vet September 19, 2010 2:43 pm (Pacific time)

This movie is the famed of people to find for a documentary of Cambodian and The World to know Cambodia, all leader don't to use like this for human right in The World!!!

Vic July 30, 2010 4:39 pm (Pacific time)

One of the most awesome and haunting books on the Khmer Rouge mightmare comes from current Portland Oregon resident Chanrity Him "When Broken Glass Floats Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge: A Memoir".

Tim King: Thanks Brother...

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