Mey Mann, a low-level Khmer Rouge member and intellectual who befriended Pol Pot in the 1940s and later expressed regret at joining the movement, has died of lung cancer. He was 81.
Family members cremated Mey Mann, who himself lost three children to the regime, at Wat Langka in Phnom Penh Friday.
Mey Mann had lived in exile in France after the regime, but brought his family back to his homeland in recent years. Family members say his dying advice was to participate in mainstream society—“Don’t walk in the forest because there are thorns.”
He also begged his children to stop smoking, “because it’s very hard to breathe” with lung cancer, family members said.
In 1949, Mey Mann won a scholarship to study in France. It was on the ship’s passage that he met another young student named Saloth Sar, who later became known to the world as Pol Pot. They soon became active in communist politics.
Although an intellectual supporter of the Khmer Rouge movement, Mey Mann never really became a leader in it. He spent the years of the Khmer Rouge regime as a farmer in Prey Veng province.
In 1980, he became an official with the Cambodian Red Cross and later served as the Khmer Rouge’s internationally-recognized representative to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
In an interview two months before his death, Mey Mann said he was sorry he became involved with the Khmer Rouge even on that level.
“I regret very much what I did. I joined the movement because I thought something good would come out of it. But finally, it turned bad and now my name is connected to a bad thing,” he said in June.
Mey Mann’s early association with the Khmer Rouge did not spare his family, however. Three of his children were killed because they did not join the Khmer Rouge, Mey Mann’s niece Chea Touch said.
Mey Mann is survived by his wife, six children and 11 grandchildren.