As Cambodia prepares to try two key Khmer Rouge leaders for war crimes, international ambivalence abounds
Inside the Khmer Pagoda in Côte-des-Neiges, head monk Hok Savann sits wrapped in a saffron robe before a large statue of the Buddha, mulling over the newly inaugurated war crimes tribunal in Cambodia. A monk next to him impassively watches a newscast from a Cambodian satellite television station, occasionally interrupting to help his senior find the right wording for an answer.
Neither of the two had visited Cambodia in three decades. Savann left in 1975 when the Khmer Rouge, a movement inspired by a mixture of nationalism and Maoism, captured the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh and plunged the country into four years of terror. Today, in another pagoda a 10 miles south of Phnom Penh, thousands of skulls, shattered by pickaxes and clubs, which spared the frugal Khmer Rouge genocidaires from using bullets, are arranged in a memorial to the victims.
Sunlight pours into the pagoda through the windows, and Savann shifts in his seat when asked whether he’d return to Cambodia. “There is no respect for the law there, there is no security,” he says. “The government does not believe in human rights.”