Guillermo Garcia remembers vividly his first visit to Cambodia in April 1997.
During his 10 days in the country, he saw a bicycle thief gunned down in the streets of Phnom Penh, did not meet a single tourist while visiting Angkor, and was told that someone called Pol Pot was staying some 50 km from Siem Reap town.
He remembers reading local newspapers reporting on mounting tensions between the CPP and Funcinpec, who had reluctantly shared power since the 1993 national elections. All the while, Cambodia was still reeling from a grenade attack on an opposition rally, which killed at least 16 and wounded more than 100.
By the time Mr Garcia left, he wanted to know more about Cambodia.
Back home in Chile, he discovered that South America had no book available in Spanish on Cambodia, and that the two or three books released in Spain mainly focused on the 1980s.
Thus, he decided to remedy the situation and write about the Khmer Rouge period between 1975 and 1979.
“I said I need to write about the tragedy of Cambodia in Spanish,” he recalled in an interview this week in Phnom Penh.
So after extensive research on Cambodian history and the Pol Pot regime, plus several trips to Cambodia, Mr Garcia’s book “Norodom Sihanouk y el Hermano Numero Zero, La Tragedia de Kampuchea Democratica,” (Norodom Sihanouk and Brother Number Zero, the tragedy of Democratic Kampuchea) was released in the Chilean capital of Santiago on April 7. Nearly 100 copies were sold on that first day alone, Mr Garcia said. The book was also launched in Phnom Penh on Monday.
An agricultural engineer by profession, Mr Garcia is also a poet, with four poetry books published in Chile, one in Spain and one in Cuba.
With the aim to reach a general audience, the 34-year-old author designed this book to shock people into grasping the horrors of the regime, he said.
For instance, he put in an insert with photos of 1,280 people killed at the Tuol Sleng torture center.