Thursday, December 01, 2005

Letter from Readers: Justice for Victims and The Trials as Lessons

Justice for Victims

Starting with the forced evacuation of people from the cities and provinces, and leaving numerous mass graves scattered across the country, the Killing Fields regime ended with the loss of 1.7 million of its own people’s lives within a period of only 3 years, 8 months and 20 days.

All Cambodians old enough to remember bear their personal heartbreaking stories about the pain and suffering that resulted from fierce hardship and family separation. The stories depict hard labor, starvation, and the physical and mental torments inflicted upon them, their parents and relatives by local Khmer Rouge cadres.

Although these excruciating stories took place some 30 years ago, the trauma remains with the victims to this day. The only way to heal this trauma is by providing an honorary justice to the regime’s victims – a pure justice that is not vengeance.

Three decades have passed, and those responsible for the deaths are getting older and older. Some of those responsible for the massacres, such as Pol Pot, Son Sen and Ke Pauk, have gone without leaving any explanation for why the Killing Fields were brought to life. Pol Pot, Son Sen and Ke Pauk do not know that the survivors of their clique dare not confront the truth, and approve of their deceased comrades’ cowardice by challenging the efforts to achieve accountability. And justice is yet to be done for all victims, both dead and alive.

When will justice be delivered to all victims of the Killing Fields? May the tribunal be established soon for the purpose of reaching closure on this the dark chapter of the country’s history. This is an appeal made in the name of a victim of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Rasmey Meng

The Trials as Lessons

Carrying along for 30 years, I still wonder about what had been done by the Khmer Rouge or “Democratic Kampuchea” regime, ruled by Pol Pot and his clique, the hasty evacuation of Phnom Penh dwellers in mid-April 1975, and the merciless executions of Lon Nol soldiers, students, intellectuals, monks, professors and artists, etc., and above all, of war prisoners of the ousted regime, who sacrificed their lives for the defense of the nation against foreign aggression.

Who ordered the evacuation of city dwellers, especially Phnom Penh’s? Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Son Sen, Ta Mok, or Duch? Or was it the awful scheme of an outsider?

If it was to wage war against North Vietnam, why did they kill soldiers of the Lon Nol regime? Who was the mastermind behind the organization of a country where schools, currency and “registry institutions” were abolished?

These are some of the questions on my mind. The products of the killing fields created by Pol Pot and his associates were painful deaths and injustice. Justice should have been achieved long ago, not 30 years later.

The upcoming tribunal for leaders of the Khmer Rouge, to be established with the involvement of international judges, is the first attempt at justice by the international community for the more than two million innocent Cambodians, chiefly Phnom Penh dwellers, who lost their lives to the regime between 1970 and 1975.

Will the tribunal be able to ensure justice for the victims? How will the survivors benefit from the tribunal?

As far as I am concerned, although the tribunal cannot provide complete justice to the victims, and may benefit other countries, it must be established so as to punish those who led the country toward catastrophe, and especially for the loss of the lives of their own people.

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