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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Small waves of change 30 years after KR debacle

Small waves of change 30 years after KR debacle

The villager who was gunned down begged for mercy. The last shot from the AK-47 hit

him point blank. The bullet went through from the back of his head and blasted out

one of his eyes.

His wife was kicked by the gunman and ordered to clear the way as she reached out

to her falling husband.

The children witnessed the murder of their father, whose only crime was to protect

the little parcel of land the family cleared from landmines, in 1997.

Four other villagers lost their lives in similar execution style. Villagers who were

injured barely escaped close death.

This was the scene of the carnage in Kbal Spean village in Poipet, on the morning

of 21 March 2005, 30 years after the Pol Pot regime. It was the nightmare of the

killing fields revisited by the 218 families who lived on the 4 hectares of land

which the village chief had claimed as his own.

The military police and police officers who came to Kbal Spean came to carry out

a court order that came from "the top". To these officers, the villagers

of Kbal Spean were not of their own Khmer blood, the women were not their mothers

and sisters, the children were not their own children. The villagers were thieves,

the unwanted mass that must be eliminated.

The cold-blooded killings of the villagers in Kbal Spean can be compared to the scene

of the men, women and children who were taken to the rice fields or forests to dig

their own graves during the Pol Pot reign of terror.

Over one million Cambodians died in silence during those three years, eight month

and twenty days of darkness. Until today, their souls are still wandering awaiting


Violence in Cambodia is a legacy of Pol Pot, no doubt. Violence has become the quick

answer to small or major conflicts that occur inside the family sphere, in the community

or in the country. We learn to live with it, to accept it as a part of life and we

call ourselves "survivors". The carnage in Kbal Spean will be repeated

in other villagers, no doubt, and there will be more "survivors", no doubt.

This legacy of the Pol Pot regime will continue to spread and to affect generations

to come when people who use violence are protected by a corrupt system of justice

and when those who abuse power and influence to control others can get away with

their acts of violence.

The horrors of Pol Pot can only be resolved when the people come together with non-violent

ways to stand up to injustice, and when justice is delivered regardless of the power

of the assailants.

The villagers of Kbal Spean are awaiting justice, and a government committee has

been formed to investigate the killings. Monitoring groups are closely watching how

justice will be delivered to the victims of Kbal Spean.

Our major task now is to nourish the voices from the grassroots that are no longer

willing to be considered as mere "survivors".

Standing with the people to provide them protection, information, knowledge of the

law is a way to find peaceful alternatives to stop the Pol Pot legacy.

The grassroots movement for change is growing in numerous communities facing violence

or unfair court decisions. Even at a snail's pace, the growing numbers of dissenters

have become a challenge that the leaders in power are starting to reckon with.

There is no way that violence and power can continue to rule the Cambodian people

without punishment, in full impunity. The small waves of change shall one day be

a part of an ocean of change. That change from the grassroots is a true sign of hope.



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