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Dialectic of a KR trial

Dear Editor,

I found Chhay Yiheang's piece "The dialectic of a Khmer Rouge trial" (Post,

Sep 29) quite refreshing: no doubt much too little philosophy is practiced in Cambodia,

and certainly much too little philosophy is applied, in Cambodia and elsewhere, to

trying to understand what contradictions, internal and external (to use the author's

conceptuality) may have led to the idiosyncrasies of the Khmer Rouge ideology and


I will not comment at length on the pros and cons of the three positions outlined

regarding the legal "solution" of the Khmer Rouge legacy. I am sure that

there are people who hold those three positions for legitimate (if possibly misguided)

reasons - as well as others who have not so well hidden agendas.

Of course the problem with the middle position is deciding where the middle resides

... surely it is not enough to arraign two or three particularly unliked and unprotected

leaders, and one or two subordinates who were so unfortunate as to kill precious

foreigners ... This reminds me that there was a time when the phrase "Khmer

Rouge" was forbidden in Cambodia: only the phrase "the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary

genocidal clique" (or was it "Pol Pot-Ieng Sary-Khieu Samphan"?) was

politically correct then - no mention of Ta Mok or Nuon Chea or Son Sen ... quite

an intriguing "middle way". I wonder if the "leaders and the mandarins"

who are bound (or meant ...) to escape involvement in a trial of the middle kind

will be entirely thrilled to be told that they "ignorantly" joined the

Khmer Rouge (or aided and abetted them: let us not forget the allies of various periods).

People do have their pride ...

I am not sure how the author can reconcile his statement on Khmer Rouge leaders'

effects on their "own race" and the phrase "genocidal regime"

used in the same paragraph. Surely the Khmer Rouge never wished to destroy the Khmer

race as such... however much they may actually have done towards achieving that result.

The concepts used by the author intrigued me: I would have expected a studied avoidance

of anything at all resembling Marxist philosophy, in Cambodia and indeed in our whole

delightedly free and consensual world, in the present conjuncture (to use another

Marxist term). This is not a reproach, far from it: I too often find Mao's On Contradiction

very useful in trying to account for the vagaries of the "leaders and mandarins"

of the "international community" - such as why Pinochet helped dear Mrs

Thatcher rather than his Argentinian colleagues (themselves precious allies of the


- Philippe Hunt, Brussels, Belgium



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