(Original report dated Nov 27, 1991, by DESERET NEWS)
An angry mob screaming “Dog!” and “Murderer!” surged past police Wednesday and beat a top leader of the Khmer Rouge, the communist guerrilla group whose reign of terror in the 1970s left hundreds of thousands dead.
The government ordered armored personnel carriers to evacuate Khieu Samphan, the right-hand man to top Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, as the crowd prepared to lynch him. Khieu Samphan and Son Sen, another Khmer Rouge leader, and their aides were flown back to Bangkok, Thailand.Bleeding from the head and chest, Khieu Samphan cowered in a bedroom as security officers prevented him from being strung up by a wire tied to a ceiling fan.
“Please help me, please don’t leave me,” he pleaded, asking three foreign photographers to stay in the room.
Only hours earlier, Khieu Samphan ended his exile and returned to Phnom Penh to take part in a U.N.-backed plan to end 13 years of civil war between the Khmer Rouge and its two non-communist guerrilla allies and the government Vietnam installed after invading Cambodia in 1978.
The attack delayed what would have been the first meeting of a national reconciliation council and appeared to jeopardize a U.N.-brokered peace accord signed last month in Paris by all four warring factions.
The government, in a statement carried by its official news agency, said after the attack that it remained fully committed to the peace pact. Under the accord, a Supreme National Council led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk would help pave the way for elections in 1993.
More than 10,000 angry demonstrators converged on the Khmer Rouge villa Wednesday after the 60-year-old Khieu Samphan’s return.
After storming and ransacking the villa, a mob broke into a second-story room where Khieu Samphan was hiding. Reporters saw him huddled against a wall, wearing a steel helmet and bleeding profusely. He apparently had been struck by a rock.
Wire had been strung from a ceiling fan, but police and other security personnel prevented the mob from lynching Khieu Samphan, one of the prime architects of the Khmer Rouge’s murderous regime and now the group’s president.
As thousands of protesters ringed the house, six government armored personnel carriers moved into position outside. One backed into the front entranceway, and Khieu Samphan, with several other members of his delegation, clambered onto the back of the vehicle.
Soldiers with riot shields tried to protect the group from a shower of rocks, sticks and other objects.
The rescue came after Prime Minister Hun Sen visited the area and urged the demonstrators through a loudspeaker to disperse, promising to send Khieu Samphan and Son Sen out of the country.
“If we act like this, if people try to kill Khieu Samphan, we will destroy the Paris peace treaty,” Hun Sen told the crowd. “We understand your feelings but please go home.”
While there was no immediate evidence the government had provoked the demonstration, soldiers and police guarding the residence initially made only halfhearted efforts to stop the attack.