MYKE TAISTER, THE FBI ARTIST, produced sketches of at least four men.
Sketch No. 1—the man in the orange vest—was particularly distinctive: a heavy-set man with a small mouth, flaring eyebrows and a “tiger jaw.”When the sketches appeared in local newspapers, many people in Phnom Penh recognized him. His street name was Brazil.
Every schoolyard has its bullies. In Cambodia, there are the young toughs known as Bong Thom, or Big Brothers, who extort protection money from beggar children, sell cheap amphetamines, occasionally rob foreigners at gunpoint and spend their earnings in karaoke bars and brothels. And there are those who move up.
Brazil, whose real name was Kong Samreth, was once known as a local hood who worked out of a noodle shop near a high school just south of downtown. Students hired him to beat up their romantic rivals. He joined the army in 1990, at the age of 20 or 21. By 1992, he was a second lieutenant, and his unit had a new commander: Hing Bun Heang.
Thuggery is a career path that offers unbounded opportunity to the truly motivated, and by 1996, Brazil had joined the security force of the Sharaton Hotel,[n] under the command of Thong Vinol.
PHOTOS: RICH GARELLA
Based in a mildewed Soviet-era apartment building across the street from the Sharaton, members of the unit were frequently called upon for odd jobs: To plant a bomb on the road near the stadium. To murder the owner of a factory. To kill Sam Rainsy.[n]
On the 26th of February, just a month before the March 30 massacre, Brazil and a man called Solo rode a blue Honda Dream motorbike to the United Garment Factory, where Rainsy was to speak to striking workers. They approached a labor organizer and his assistant. “‘You are Sam Rainsy?’ I said ‘No, I’m not,’” the organizer later recounted. “They hit us both. First the big guy hit me, then the other. They point the gun and hit at the same time, like a coward who is afraid you would hit back, so he has a gun in the other hand. The big guy hit hard—so strong.”
A crowd of workers hauled the bloodied men away. Brazil waited until dusk, but Rainsy never showed.[s]
Brazil can finish the story himself. His statement:
Sam Rainsy also did not show up at United Factory. So, at around 9am the demonstrators were walking toward the National Assembly. For myself, they ordered me to wait at the factory just in case Mr Sam Rainsy came. I waited there until 5pm, then went back to the Sharaton Hotel.
Arriving at the hotel, Mr Thong Vinol berated me. “You never achieve anything, but you are really a big talker.” For myself, I just kept quiet. I did not dare to speak back to him.
I would like to note that the cause that Mr Thong Vinol blamed on me, because I had smashed the demonstrator that morning, which caused people to panic, and Sam Rainsy did not show up.