Pardon the Khmer Rouge leadership? There are more than two million reasons why
it should not be an unconditional option.
To dismiss the toll of the "killing fields" by virtue of a pardon for a
leadership figure would be to devalue the preciousness of life for the sake of cosmetic
Reconciliation need not include the absence of justice; however, it appears that
over the past few months "democratization" has been conveniently redefined
to suit political aims, so it would come as no surprise that "justice",
as it pertains to its application to Khmer Rouge leaders of either faction, (Pol
Pot or Ieng Sary) would undergo redefinition.
Forgiveness is the prerogative of each individual and cannot be abrogated regardless
of the actions taken by institutions.
The Cambodian people were betrayed in the past when the world failed to recognize
the potential of the Khmer Rouge, and the results are still being discovered to this
An unconditional pardon would render the work of the Cambodian Genocide Investigation
moot, or at the very least it would lead many to question why the effort was ever
undertaken if in the end, the leadership, the lords of genocide, even in cases of
obviously opportunistic repentance, were to be allowed to walk free in the countryside
that they once filled with the blood of innocents.
Indeed, would not a pardon circumnavigate justice and border on complicity? No doubt,
there are perhaps Khmer Rouge cadre who are remorseful and appalled at the work of
their own hands, they will forever be haunted, just as the survivors who suffered
at their hands will forever be carrying the visible and invisible wounds of Pol Pot's
Bringing Khmer Rouge leadership to justice does not necessarily mean pressing for
their eventual literal extermination that would be little more than revenge and any
satisfaction to be derived would be short-lived. It is perhaps better that the Khmer
Rouge Central Committee members be brought face-to-face with the destruction they
wrought, and then have penance apportioned.
What is the consensus of the Cambodian people on the issue? Not the consensus of
a governmental body, which may, or may not be the same as that of the people who
hold no government title, but what do the people in the market think, the rice farmer,
the cyclo driver, the veteran who gave an arm or leg as he fought to protect the
villagers in a northwestern province so that they could sleep one night without fear
of a return of the Khmer Rouge terror?
Hopefully, any decision on pardons will be made in the knowledge that the ramifications
may be inherently beneficial and not detrimental to Cambodia's recovery.
- Jim Yost, Texas.