View of Cambodia's fall by one of the few in gov't to escape

AP News
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Posted: Apr 10, 2015 5:31 AM
View of Cambodia's fall by one of the few in gov't to escape

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A snapshot of Cambodia's fall, from a government minister evacuated by the United States in 1975:

NAME: Long Botta

HOMETOWN: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

CAMBODIA EXPERIENCE: Served as minister of culture in the U.S.-backed government and was one of only two Cambodian leaders evacuated. The rest chose to remain behind and were executed by the Khmer Rouge. Contacted by American diplomat Timothy Carney, he was given 45 minutes to gather his wife, two children, one suitcase and $50 before being extracted from Phnom Penh by helicopter. The event left him psychologically disturbed for several years.

LIFE AFTER CAMBODIA'S FALL: Joined the non-communist resistance fighting the Vietnamese-installed government in Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, lived for a time in France and finally returned home in 2005 to begin what he says is a "second political life." At 72, he is now a member of Parliament from the party opposing authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

REFLECTIONS: Boarding the evacuation helicopter, Long Botta thought the Americans were planning a government-in-exile or armed resistance against the Khmer Rouge. "Only 15 minutes after the helicopter took off, then the (soldier) told us: 'Welcome on board.' I said to myself, 'Finished. We will leave Cambodia forever.'"

At that moment he felt betrayed by the U.S. government, but later he reflected: The Cambodians had destroyed themselves through gross corruption.