After reading 'Second terrorism trial under way' (PPP, Oct. 28 to Nov. 8, 2001),
I have become disconcerted, but not shocked, at another sad chapter of Cambodia's
history. As suspected "terrorists" of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters await
their verdicts, defendants such as Doung Sopheap and even his unsuspecting mother
Tith Sovanna -former "presidential advisor" to CFF leader Chhun Yasith
- just to name a few, are probably wondering:"Where did we go wrong?"
For those of us determined to rid Cambodia of the unpalatable effects of the Pol
Pot and Nuon Chea era, thereby determined to help her achieve real, sustainable development
through noncoercive measures and diverting war, we are left dumbfounded by the very
thought that Americans were somehow involved in repeating (Cambodia's) unpleasant
Less strikingly though, the Cambodian judicial system has once again made its way
under the limelight of international scrutiny as defendants of the CFF-involved "terror"
have accused the judicial system and its officials of foul-play and denying them
a right to a fair trial. Though such events seem all too familiar, I still find discomfort
in this because 1) Americans were behind such brainless actions; 2) the Cambodian
judicial system has once again made a name for itself as being backward and maybe
even inhumane; and 3) locals were somehow lured into this war and have now been subjected
to another episode of fear.
Luckily, the operation fell short of its mission and casualties were kept to a minimum.
Nonetheless, we should not dismiss the fact that Cambodian-Americans were responsible.
I understand that these so-called Freedom Fighters were upset and would love to see
the current government succeeded by something more promising, perhaps even more democratic.
Unfortunately, they made the terrible mistake of replacing (a fledgling) democracy,
hard work and patience with enmity. Cambodia and her people can ill-afford to retract
in this process to sustain development. However, by subjecting the local Khmers to
another phase of war, repeating history mind you, CFF members virtually become the
people they despise.
Perhaps if Yasith and co-workers would have taken the time to read the "Art
of War"- a necessary precursor to understanding war - they would have learned
that a successful battle is won when lives are not at stake. In other words, war
should only be waged if and only if diplomacy (or any other means of non-coercion)
is exhausted. Though such philosophical underpinning is applied on a case-by-case
basis, for the CFF, they would have been more effective should they have allowed
the fruits of local Khmer's hard work and the undying efforts of civil societies
to be born out, moving beyond infancy and into something more sustainable.
Nothing effective or positive came out of this and sadly but inevitably, these defendants
will revisit history as they face a politically-aligned judicial system that will
more likely than not seek revenge and set an example for future attempts to topple
- Peter Keo, Washington, DC