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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge on Trial, Sort Of

Perhaps it should come as a surprise to no one, but the complications seem endless as Cambodia continues the painful process of putting the perpetrators of one of the 20th century’s most criminal and violent regimes on trial.

No one — not even Cambodia’s famously corrupt government — can say with a straight face that no legal reckoning of the Khmer Rouge should take place. But it seems that while publicly endorsing these complex, internationally prominent trials, the powers that be still feel comfortable undermining them in every way possible.

So far one prison commandant named Comerade Duch has been sentenced to thirty years in prison and four more former high-ranking leaders of the Khmer Rouge are on trial. A rather small tranche of a movement that was responsible for the deaths of 17 million Cambodians in the late 70s.

But when further trials have been proposed, Prime Minister Hun Sen himself said that ‘he would rather have the tribunal fail than see more than two trials'. He told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in October that additional cases were "not allowed."

Sadly, most of the current Cambodian government is strongly tied to the globally vilified Khmer Rouge. They have a vested interest in keeping justice at bay. As with so many places in the world, a despotic and deplorable past is never too far from the present — especially when you’re looking at the people in power.

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