There is a long literary tradition of confessional, self-lacerating prison memoirs. But jailed former municipal police chief Heng Pov has now penned what could be dubbed an anti-memoir: a 227-page book that contains no information at all about his tumultuous tenure as police chief, his time on the lam in Malaysia or his nearly 100-year prison sentence.
Instead, his work is largely an encomium to a man whom he had previously portrayed as a tyrant: Prime Minister Hun Sen.
In “Strategy To Extinguish War in Cambodia,” Heng Pov—who is currently serving a prison sentence of over 93 years for a slew of serious crimes, including the killing of a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge—lays out a complete history of Cambodia from a CPP-friendly vantage point, lavishing praise on the premier’s leadership.
“For Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Decho Hun Sen is a rare case in Cambodia’s leadership history: He is really a genius in politics and highly intelligent, similar to Napoleon,” one passage reads. “Another special thing is that he always adheres to the truth and is not greedy with money, property or land for his personal gain.”
Kao Soupha, Heng Pov’s lawyer, said yesterday that his client did not write the book to win a pardon from Mr Hun Sen, but to teach the youth of Cambodia about history.
“His writing is aimed at letting the younger generation know what has occurred,” Mr Soupha said.
But Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, suggested that Heng Pov wrote the book in a bid to ingratiate himself with the premier and eventually win his release.
“He maybe wants to please the prime minister, because the prime minister is the one who is strong in the country, and he’s the one that [Heng Pov] may seek parole from,” he said. “What he wrote can please the government and could be a way to seek parole.”
“I haven’t seen that book yet so I have no comment on that: It is a part of the self-expression of Heng Pov,” Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said yesterday. “A prisoner has a right to write or publish any book.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak also said he knew nothing of the book and could not comment. But he added that he was confused as to how Heng Pov could have produced such a work while incarcerated.
“Where did he write the book—in prison?” Lt Gen Sopheak asked. “According to prison regulations, how would he have time to write a book? Anyway, I know nothing about this, so I cannot talk.”
Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union and brother of assassinated union leader Chea Vichea, suggested yesterday that Heng Pov’s history would have been more complete if he had written about the murders of Mr Vichea and fellow trade unionist Ros Sovannareth, both of which occurred during his tenure as police chief and remain unsolved.
But, he added, “I think Heng Pov is clever. Because only the Prime Minister can reduce his jail term.”