I found Chhay Yiheang's piece "The dialectic of a Khmer Rouge trial" (Post,
Sep 29) quite refreshing: no doubt much too little philosophy is practiced in Cambodia,
and certainly much too little philosophy is applied, in Cambodia and elsewhere, to
trying to understand what contradictions, internal and external (to use the author's
conceptuality) may have led to the idiosyncrasies of the Khmer Rouge ideology and
I will not comment at length on the pros and cons of the three positions outlined
regarding the legal "solution" of the Khmer Rouge legacy. I am sure that
there are people who hold those three positions for legitimate (if possibly misguided)
reasons - as well as others who have not so well hidden agendas.
Of course the problem with the middle position is deciding where the middle resides
... surely it is not enough to arraign two or three particularly unliked and unprotected
leaders, and one or two subordinates who were so unfortunate as to kill precious
foreigners ... This reminds me that there was a time when the phrase "Khmer
Rouge" was forbidden in Cambodia: only the phrase "the Pol Pot-Ieng Sary
genocidal clique" (or was it "Pol Pot-Ieng Sary-Khieu Samphan"?) was
politically correct then - no mention of Ta Mok or Nuon Chea or Son Sen ... quite
an intriguing "middle way". I wonder if the "leaders and the mandarins"
who are bound (or meant ...) to escape involvement in a trial of the middle kind
will be entirely thrilled to be told that they "ignorantly" joined the
Khmer Rouge (or aided and abetted them: let us not forget the allies of various periods).
People do have their pride ...
I am not sure how the author can reconcile his statement on Khmer Rouge leaders'
effects on their "own race" and the phrase "genocidal regime"
used in the same paragraph. Surely the Khmer Rouge never wished to destroy the Khmer
race as such... however much they may actually have done towards achieving that result.
The concepts used by the author intrigued me: I would have expected a studied avoidance
of anything at all resembling Marxist philosophy, in Cambodia and indeed in our whole
delightedly free and consensual world, in the present conjuncture (to use another
Marxist term). This is not a reproach, far from it: I too often find Mao's On Contradiction
very useful in trying to account for the vagaries of the "leaders and mandarins"
of the "international community" - such as why Pinochet helped dear Mrs
Thatcher rather than his Argentinian colleagues (themselves precious allies of the
- Philippe Hunt, Brussels, Belgium