Significant Khmer Rouge leaders of the Southwest Zone

In April 17 1972 a primary school teacher, Ith Sarin, left Phnom Penh and spent six months travelling through territory held by the communists.1 His trip has become important historically because what he saw, and lived to write about, captured the transition in the communist movement from being more open, less violent and proudly aligned with the wider struggle through Indochina to a more closed, more violent and xenophobic movement.

When the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh exactly three years after Sarin left, the internal battle within the maqui (resistance) had been won by the faction led by Pol Pot and Ieng Sary. Sarin spent time in the Southwest Zone and later wrote that the zones most influential personalities were Chou Chet, Phouk Chhay, Sieng Po Se, Thuch Rin and Ta Mok.2

This section will collect what we know about these leaders and tell part of the story of the Southwest Zone through their lives and struggles. As Vickery tried to emphasise, the ‘Standard Total View’ (see ‘Southwest Zone - the Big Picture’ section) becomes much more nuanced when we look more closely at these individuals. As others become more relevant to this story, we will add their names to this list. As more information comes to hand it will be added to the stories below

  • Ta Mok
  • Phouk Chhay
  • Chou Chet
  • Non Suon
  • Sieng Po Se
  • Thuch Rin
  • Prasith

Ben Kiernan, How Pol Pot Came to Power, Verso, London 1986, p 338

Ibid p 340