Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

News Conference Refutes Press Lies:

’Kampuchea Doing Fine’ Say 1st U.S. Visitors


First Published: The Call, Vol. 7, No. 20, May 22, 1978.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“With my own eyes,” said Burstein, “I saw a country, a people and a society diametrically opposed to the image that has been conveyed by one article after another appearing in the U.S. press–all written by those who have never personally visited the new Kampuchea. I saw a country where the common people themselves have become the masters of their own society, rather than the feudal lords and foreign interests of the old days.”

In his statement to the press, Burstein charged that a “propaganda war” is being waged against Kampuchea. The highest circles of the U.S. ruling class are making use of the press to spread wild horror stories about “mass genocide” and ”violations of human rights” there.

The May 11 press conference itself was a weapon against this reactionary propaganda machine. A representative of the Group of Kampuchean Residents in America, which jointly sponsored the press conference with The Call, pointed out in her statement that as a result of The Call journalists’ visit, “The American people, who have waited a long time to hear the truth, can now get factual information about the situation of the Kampuchean people.”

But not all the members of the press who gathered for the conference were interested in the truth. Although more than fifteen major newspapers, TV stations and other media organs were represented–ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the Voice of America, Associated Press and CBS News–most chose not to publish any news about The Call’s report.

The New York Times, which did publish a three paragraph story on the press conference in its May 12 edition, returned the next day with a front-page feature article filled with lies about “starvation” and “bloodbath” in Kampuchea. Significantly, the Times article tried to defend the credibility of the refugees who have been the main source for these horror stories. At the press conference Burstein had directly challenged the validity of these reports by exposing the connections of many of the refugees to the CIA and the old Lon Nol ruling clique.

Reflecting the infatuation of their newspapers with the grossly exaggerated refugee stories, reporters for the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal repeatedly rose to ask Burstein such questions as, “Hasn’t the new regime executed more than two million people?”

In reply to such questions, Burstein pointed out: “First of all, this myth about ’genocide’ in Kampuchea has absolutely no basis in reality. The immediate postwar population of Kampuchea was about 8 million and the population is roughly the same today.

“Has there been any violence, any executions–even any mistakes or excesses–in the last three years of revolution? Of course there have. The Kampuchean revolution was born out of a war, a war in which real genocide was committed by the U.S. imperialists who killed more than 800,000 Kampucheans in the five years between 1970 and 1975. The revolution has had to stand up to repeated efforts by the Lon Nol traitors, the CIA, the KGB and other reactionaries to overthrow it. Such a struggle is by nature violent.”

Stressing the need to understand the question of violence in class terms, Burstein pointed out to reporters, “When the police in the U.S. shoot down hundreds of unarmed Black youth in the ghetto, your newspapers don’t seem to worry about ’genocide’ and ’human rights.’ But when the Kampuchean workers and peasants defend their new socialist society against the sabotage of traitors and enemy agents, all of a sudden you become the champions of ’human rights’ for such people.”

Burstein spoke at length on the important achievements of the revolution in Kampuchea, taking note of the fact that ”for the first time in their history the Kampuchean people have enough to eat.” He showed how agricultural and water conservation projects were being organized on an unprecedented scale, with the energetic and enthusiastic labor of the masses of people. As a result, two-crop rice farming has been introduced for the first time, and in some places, three-crop farming is beginning. The Call editor also commented on the great improvements in housing, hygiene, medical care, literacy rates, and other areas pushed forward by the revolution.

After listening to this report, several newsmen tried to discount it by questioning Burstein’s ability to act as a “neutral observer.” To this, Burstein replied:

“I make no pretense of ’neutrality.’ A revolution is going on in Kampuchea–a revolution which is overturning all the old relations of exploitation and oppression. You can either be for it or against it. Our Party supports it wholeheartedly.

“At the same time, I am trying to report to you as accurately as possible on what I actually saw. Everything I have reported to you today is what I have actually seen first-hand.”

Burstein went on to show that those who claim to be “neutral observers” of the situation in Kampuchea are in fact no such thing. He linked most of the accounts appearing in the U.S. press to a “highly-organized and well-financed network that disseminates misinformation about Kampuchea.”

Heading up this network are CIA operatives and former officials of the Lon Nol clique like In Tam, who now works for the CIA in Bangkok, despite official U.S. reports claiming he is in France. In Tam actually pays so-called refugees up to $50 a piece to “tell their stories” to foreign visitors and journalists in Thailand. This network has also been known to pass off staged photos of “executions” that have appeared in the U.S. press.

As the press conference was drawing to a close, one reporter asked, “Why do you think the U.S. government and the CIA are conducting this propaganda war, if indeed they are?”

To this, Burstein replied that ever since the victory of the revolution in 1975, the door has been closed to U.S. exploitation “of the rich rubber and other natural resources of the country. Furthermore, Kampuchea, which is very strategically located in the heart of Southeast Asia, has resisted all efforts by either the U.S. or the Soviet Union to dominate and manipulate it.

“The U.S. doesn’t like to see any spot on the map where it can’t reap profits and control policy. In fact, the U.S. is actively trying to gain its old position of domination over Kampuchea. It has already attempted several coup d’etats from inside the country, and these have failed. So now it has resorted to this propaganda war in the hopes of isolating Kampuchea in the international community and putting pressure on it, thus improving the conditions for CIA destabilization schemes.

“There is one other factor to be considered,” Burstein added. “The American people are more and more fed up with the situation at home. More people are looking to socialism as an alternative to the capitalist system of crisis and war. For this reason too, the ruling interests of this country are waging a propaganda war against Kampuchea, trying to paint socialism as terrible for the people, rather than the truly liberating system that it is.”