Home > Education, Khmer Rouge, Local News > Cambodia: Study the Khmer Rouges to avoid the same mistakes, young Cambodian woman says

Cambodia: Study the Khmer Rouges to avoid the same mistakes, young Cambodian woman says

A young woman writes a letter to a newspaper, saying that the
country’s history includes both the “marvellous period” of Angkor and
the hellish nightmare of Pol Pot’s regime. For many others, the
country’s recent history is painful, useless and better left forgotten.
Activists warn that UN trials …

Phnom Penh – “I believe that if we
do not learn from mistakes, the same mistakes will happen again,” wrote a
young Cambodian woman, Kunty Seng, in a letter published on phnompenhpost.com.
For her, Cambodians must study the “marvellous period” of the Angkor
era as well as the genocidal “reign of horror” under Pol Pot and his
Khmer Rouge acolytes. In the meantime, human rights groups are sounding
the alarm because the United Nations tribunal currently trying former
Khmer Rouge leaders, including former deputy prime minister and “Brother
Number Three” Ieng Sary, could close before it finishes its work.
Likewise, many are concerned that prosecutors are not conducting
investigations properly, which could compromise future prosecutions.
Cambodia still bears the scars of the four years of
Khmer Rouge rule (1975-1979), which killed almost two million people
(about a quarter of the population), including the country’s elites
(intellectuals, doctors, teachers and artists)
Sociologists and Catholic leaders have told AsiaNews
several times that Cambodians are not much inclined towards in-depth
self-analysis and historical introspection. Largely, “money and
economics”, not the past, are what counts. Still, there are some signs
that something is changing.
In her letter, Kunty Seng wrote that some of her
friends “say we should not talk about it because it is painful to be
reminded of such a horrible time in our history.” They “view the Khmer
Rouge tribunal as being useless because it can never bring all of the
Khmer Rouge cadres to justice. They say: ‘The tribunal is a fake symbol;
it is for a political gain only’.”
“I have a different view. I think that one needs to
talk about what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime. I know that
Cambodian leaders made a big mistake and future leaders must not make
the same mistake again. I believe that if we do not learn from mistakes,
the same mistakes will happen again.”
“Since my childhood, I have been taught about
Cambodia, the Land of Sovann Phumi or ‘Golden Land’,” about “the
marvellous period of Angkor era”, a place with beautiful temples that
are now part of the world’s heritage.
However, “I have learned very little in school about
what happened during the reign of horror of the Khmer Rouge,” she wrote.
“What I have learned I have learned from my parents and other
“I believe that [the] younger generation should be
taught both the good things about Cambodia” during the “Angkor era” and
“the terrible history of the Khmer Rouge.”
Meanwhile, legal and human rights activists are
concerned that Cambodia’s UN- backed genocide tribunal might shut down
before the main accused, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng
Thirith, are tried, undermining any future trial against other former
Pol Pot officials.
Defence lawyers have in fact demanded the release of
their aged clients, who are on trial for war crimes and crimes against
Last week the co-investigating judges, a Cambodian and
a German, officially informed the court that their investigation for
Case No. 3 was complete. The names of those being probed have been kept
secret, but they are believed to include at least five second-tier Khmer
Rouge officials.
Critics including Human Rights Watch say the
co-investigating judges have done an incomplete probe in an effort to
scuttle future prosecutions.
So far, the only accused that was convicted is Kaing
Guev Eav, better known as Comrade Duch, who ran the notorious S-21
prison in Phnom Penh.
He admitted his guilt, saying he followed orders, and for this was sentenced to 35 years in jail.
His lawyers have appealed the sentence.

Source: Asia News
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