"A man is presumed (assumed) innocent until proven guilty." This is what I have learned after living in the West for the last 30 years. I also learned that justice, especially in a developing nation such as Cambodia, is in the "eye of the beholder", specifically by those who held power with absolutely authority.
Former Khmer Rouge chief executioner Kang Ghek Euv (aka Duch) was one of those in power. He was the chief, a part of the Khmer Rouge killing machine. He was very, very good and proficient at what he did, without a shadow of a doubt. He was the judge, jury and executioner.
And for Duch, sadly, every day at his job as "chief killer", it was simply just another day at the office.
Duch, possibly, will be the first to stand trial for his role and responsibility as the public face of the Khmer Rouge killing machine, which involved millions of lives. The exact toll may never be known, but the accepted number is between 1.7 and 3 million Cambodians dead-including 9 out of 12 of this author's immediate family. Will we see justice? That is the big question....
For a few - about 20 percent of Cambodia's population, according to surveys - Duch and other KR leaders, those deemed "most responsible", should never, ever have to face the myriad crimes they committed. "Let bygones be bygones," a few have even said publicly and shamelessly. The fact that Duch, alone, is responsible for the deaths of nearly 17,000 men, women and children - if not more - had completely escaped them. This fact alone is more than sad; it's pathetic.
There is no justice in Cambodia and other parts of the planet. The only justice served is "street justice", where a man who stole a chicken to feed his starving family is immediately thrown in jail and/or mercilessly killed on the street by "mob justice", under the watchful eye of the authorities, in many cases. Yes, I have personally witnessed this scene first-hand a number of times, as matter of fact, in Cambodia. Sadly,
those who killed millions, even after more than 30 years have passed, may not face the dock. Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Ke Pauk, Son Sen and many others already escaped justice due to their untimely deaths. It is a "culture of impunity" that still exists in Cambodia. This has got to change.
The ECCC represents the best hope for the victims and survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime. And Duch will be the first to test this unprecedented hybrid court. I personally doubt that we will find justice there, but at least the ideal, the principle, the sense of justice, is there.
"An eye for an eye"(my brand of justice and, obviously, for many others as well) would be much easier to attain, but to get such evils in a legal court of law and expose them to daylight is extremely difficult.
And so my hat, as one survivor, is off to those at the ECCC, both the RGC and UN side, especially to those who have been working tirelessly to see that the likes of Duch will get a fair trial, that he is comfortable and being treated like a human being - not as the mass murderer that he was/is. After all, a "man is still innocent until proven guilty in the court of law".
"Killing one is murder. Killing millions is simply a statistic". That was Joseph Stalin's wisdom. This is why the ECCC, regardless of its countless flaws, is still the only and best hope for the Khmer people.
Former Khmer Rouge tribunal
public forum chairperson and
current committee member
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