I am compelled to offer Victor Keo a response after reading his letter in the
Post ("Controversy", Jan 24-Feb 6).
First of all, I must thank Victor Keo for his opposing views. It was my intention
in the first place to start a debate - not necessarily controversy - in regards to
the "peace and reconciliation" issue in Cambodia. At least I now know that
other ordinary people, wrongly or rightly, do care about this issue and are willing
to speak out. Cambodia must debate this thorny issue instead of keeping it quiet
and leaving it to a few politicians. In this sense, I applaud Victor Keo for his
courage and willingness to respond to this issue.
Second, Victor Keo - although I don't know him personally - has never really been
in "the same shoes" as a Ronnie Yimsut (as he claimed). Not unless he was
a 13-year-old boy when terrible things happened to him and his family during the
Khmer Rouge years. I am not just talking about having survived the Killing Fields.
I am talking about horrible things, such as the witnessing the execution of nearly
my entire family (nine out of 12 of my immediate family members, including my parents),
hundreds other close relatives, friends, and neighbors. I was there among the screaming
and dying victims. I still hear their plea for justice if not vengeance. I am the
only known survivor to walk out of a shallow ditch that the KR made all their victims
dig before they were bludgeoned mercilessly to death. I am still suffering to this
day, physically and emotionally, because of that ordeal - not just surviving the
KR's reign as Victor Keo did.
Third, I must agree with Victor Keo that Ronnie Yimsut's life in America is very,
very good in comparison to most Khmer (not all) in Cambodia. However, he totally
forgot to mention that there are prices one must pay for that "good living."
A Khmer in Cambodia or anyone for that matter does not "deserve" anything,
as Victor Keo asked or suggested. Everyone, including a Victor Keo or a Ronnie Yimsut,
must be willing to earn that good life and not just sitting around and bitching about
it. The good living does not come free, easy, or even very cheap as Victor Keo and
others might have thought.
Fourth, I must also agree with Victor Keo that we, as human beings, are selfish by
nature. However, I very much disagree with his suggestion or notion that we must
"sacrifice" everything in the name of "Peace and Reconciliation"
in Cambodia, like a "father would for his children". Well, as a father
of two children, I will sacrifice just about everything for them. I will not, however,
sacrifice my principles nor my moral responsibility for the sake of my children.
What would that teach them if I did? Without strong principles and moral responsibility,
a person has absolutely nothing!
It is all Khmers' utmost duty and moral responsibility to see that justice, not only
peace and reconciliation, prevail in Cambodia. And you don't compromise your principles
and your moral responsibility, the very foundation of your life, to get it. I want
to see Cambodia fully achieve peace and reconciliation just as much as Victor Keo
or any other Khmer. However, unlike Victor Keo, I also want to see justice in Cambodia
as well. Not just for me personally, but for millions of other Khmer, dead or alive,
who have been victimized in the last 25 years. Without justice, peace and reconciliation
in Cambodia is meaningless. I only hope that Victor Keo does not confuse "justice"
The Jews are still seeking justice even 50 years after the holocaust. It is not
about vengeance, but rather about justice. It is the Jews' duty and moral responsibility
to their dead.
If Victor Keo was really in Ronnie Yimsut's shoes, he would not allow the same people
who raped and murdered his mother, sister, daughter, and others to escape justice
- not even in the name of peace and reconciliation. His willingness to forgive those
who have committed crime against humanity, such as Mr. Ieng Sary, in the name of
peace and reconciliation is a total disrespect for the millions of dead Khmer. It
is a complete disregard for the survivors, including Victor Keo himself. What is
his next compromise in the name of peace and reconciliation? Forgiving Pol Pot, Ta
Mok, Son Sen? Why not go all the way? Better yet, why don't we release all the convicts
from all the notorious prisons in Cambodia, as proposed by King Sihanouk? Why the
In regard to the old saying as Victor Keo quoted, "If you're are not going to
help row, put no foot into the water to resist the boat's motion," it is absolutely
ridiculous to use such a phrase. It is a prejudicial attitude that he and many others
in the government hold toward an opposing view, toward an opposition. I do my share
of "rowing the boat", within Cambodia and from the US, mainly as a volunteer
for no pay. However, I will "resist" a boat that is being rowed around
in a circle.
Although I may not agree with nor like Victor Keo's opposing views, I respect them.
I only hope that he also respects mine. It is the first important step in any peace
and reconciliation for the Khmer.
- Ronnie Yimsut, Oregon, USA. (Abridged)