The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Khmer Rouge Trials Begin

Today marks the first day of the long-awaited Khmer Rouge Trials, almost 30 years after the brutal communist regime devastated the country and murdered nearly 2 million people.

This morning at 9am, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch" was the commanding officer at the infamous S21, a school turned torture facility where approximately 17000 people were held and all but a dozen eventually killed (either at the school, or taken to the "Killing Fields."

The trials are not without controversy however. Only 5 officers of the Khmer Rouge have been permitted by the government to go to trial. Many members of Cambodia's current government are former members of the Khmer Rouge themselves, and guilty of crimes that will never go to trial. Thousands of ex-Khmer Rouge cadres live freely among the population as well. Only Duch, now a Christian, has freely turned himself in, confessed to his crimes, expressed remorse, and asked for forgiveness.

While the 5 on trial are most certainly guilty of the crimes they are charged, there is a sense that they are being used as symbolic scapegoats while so many guilty people go free.

Its interesting to note that most Cambodians don't seem to want revenge. They merely want those guilty to confess their crimes, express remorse, and explain why they did what they did. Those seeking revenge seem to more often be foreign observers.

S21, seen through an upper window in the complex

A visitor looks through the photos and documents on display at S21

some of the better cells in the prison

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