+++ This blog was originally written in late Feb - but I hadn't joined KhmerWitica yet hence the lateness. It was also written for a social media class where knowledge/familiarity with Cambodia and it's violent history was (and still is) non-existence for the most part. +++
I know, blogging faux par #1: it’s too long!!! But bear with me, this is actually the edited, shortened version:
Cambodia. Have you hear of it? If you have, the first things that come to mind are … those majestic ancient temples (e.g. Angkor Wat) or maybe “The Killing Fields” – the movie. And if you haven’t, well, that’s not all that unusual.
Today, Cambodia or Kingdom of Kampuchea is one of the poorest and most corrupt third-world countries in SE Asia. It is a country that has experienced French colonization, independence, industrialization, civil wars, atomic bombs (courtesy of Nixon and Kissinger), genocide, and a “multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy” – all in one century. Am I bitter about it? Yeah, I am … just a little - maybe a lot. Depends on my mood. Sometimes, it’s very conflicting being a Cambodian-American.
Anyways, if you’ve seen the movie, “The Killing Fields”, you’ll know about the genocide; the genocide that killed approximately 1.7 million people from 1975 – 1979. The culprit? The Khmer Rouge. And how were they punished for their crimes against humanity? Well, we’re still working on that. You see, two weeks ago, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal finally took place. And yes, that makes it some thirty-odd years since the actual incident. Will the victims finally getting their long, awaited justice? That’s a matter of opinion.
There are a total of five people on trial. You’d think an international trial backed by the UN could do better than that … I suppose the fact that Hun Sen, the current Prime Minister of Cambodia and many other top government officials – who all used to soldiers in the Khmer Rouge, has something to do with it.
Personally, I think whatever justice is brought about by this trial will be merely subjective. The trial will take years and millions of dollars. A majority of the people in Cambodia did not know the trial has started nor will they have the means to follow the trial. The expats living abroad will follow it to a certain degree but there’s the problem of limited information availability to the public. Of course, my parents and hundreds of thousands of others want their justice. But what is justice when some of the very people conducting the trial are guilty of the same crimes as the defendants? The time and money is better spent on a new government, westernizing the country, or a better education system.
Then again, it is not my justice, I was not there. I will never understand the four years of living in hell. And sadly, it is too painful to ask my parents to relive their horror to benefit my knowledge and curiosity. So, what are your thoughts on the matter? Is justice too little, too late?
Sidenote: I will write a review on a book called “Survivors” by Sucheng Chan in April (it will coincide with both the Khmer New Year’s and the start of the Khmer Rouge genocide).