Good news for a change from Phnom Penh: Ieng Sary, brother-in-law of and cofounder with Pol Pot of Cambodia’s murderous Khmer Rouge movement, died last week. Or perhaps it wasn’t really good news. His heart (who knew he had one?) gave out before the Cambodian-U.N. tribunal had a chance to finish its proceedings and convict him of mass murder. As the AP account of his death, at 87, noted, the Khmer Rouge regime, which he served as foreign minister in its four year reign from 1975 to 1979, caused “the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.”
Ieng Sary’s death would be a fitting occasion for the New York Times to append a correction to Sydney Schanberg’s April 13, 1975, dispatch from Phnom Penh, “Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life.” For “the ordinary people of Indochina,” Schanberg wrote, “it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone. . . . This is not to say that the Communist-backed governments . . . can be expected to be benevolent.”
He went on to predict that life under the Khmer Rouge might be “hard and inflexible.” Nonetheless, he concluded, “it will be nice when Americans get out of the killing business in Indochina.”
The Scrapbook suggests, for the correction, that the word “Communists” be swapped in wherever the word “Americans” appeared in Schanberg’s infamous forecast.