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Verdict short on justice but a good beginning for next time

Dear Editor,

First of all, Duch’s recent conviction and sentencing to 35 years imprisonment by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia represents a day of reckoning for many.

At least one of our former tormentors had, at long last, faced the docket in a relatively fair trial.

Duch’s case also represents a minor yet invaluable test for the ECCC, which was made much easier by Duch’s willing cooperation – hence the reduction in his prison term to just 19 years.

Suffice to say, Duch is only a “small potato” or a “small fry”, one of about 120 or so who should be prosecuted as well.

Indeed, Duch is only a scapegoat for countless other of his former comrades.

It is impossible (and also impractical) to prosecute them all, due to the lack of resources, and more importantly, due to the lack of political will.

Still, Duch only has to serve approximately 11 minutes for every single life he had directly and personally murdered (reportedly 14,000 to 16,000 lives, if not more, snuffed out). Duch is expected to serve much less time in prison, assuming that he will get time off for good behaviour, a very good chance for this convert to fundamentalist Christianity.

So we may see Duch on the street, among all of us, sooner rather than later.

That’s a reality – not justice. It’s a slap in our face, to state it simply.

This is one (of many) reasons why I personally did not file a complaint application to the ECCC’s Victims’ Participation Unit.

It would have been a good exercise and might have even made me feel just a tidbit better, as a survivor.

Still, half-full is better than half-empty, right?

It was still a very good day for humanity, all things considered.

Realistically speaking, Duch may sooner or later face street justice (or, the people’s court) in Cambodia.

Regardless of the countless flaws, Duch’s trial was a good exercise and a warm-up for the next case, involving much-higher ranking policy makers during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

This next case will be a much bigger test and a challenge for the ECCC. It shall make or break the ECCC with its complicated and relatively pricy processes.

My hat is still off for the ECCC and its dedicated staff.

It was Joseph Stalin who once said, “Kill one is murder, kill millions is only a statistic.” My nine dead family members and millions others are simply a statistic. Really?

Lastly, I have only one simple request, as a victim and a survivor (and a somewhat devout Buddhist).

My request is that once the trial (exercise) is over, all these pathetic old men (and an old woman) should be either set free to roam the streets of Cambodia or else be sent to a good old folk’s home in China to live out the rest of their lives freely.

No sense in keeping the old folks locked up in prison (a waste of Cambodia’s limited resources) since there is no death penalty.

Ronnie Yimsut
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Send letters to: or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.



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