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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cambodia: Khmer Rouge’s ‘First Lady’ Released



It still remains to be seen whether survivors of the Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge nightmare — like the families we work with — will be served any semblance of justice. 

Ieng Thirith, otherwise known as the ‘First Lady’ of the Khmer Rouge and one of the few senior players of that regime to ever face justice for their crimes, was released by Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court due to her failing mental health. The charges against her for crimes committed as social affairs minister have not been dropped. However, as with other Cambodian officials accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, Thirith is dogged in her refusal to take responsibility.

It is believed that Thirith is responsible for crafting the policies that were meant to reshape Cambodian society according to the Khmer Rouge’s bizarre vision of an agrarian utopia. Because of this woman, children were separated from parents, wives from husbands. The trauma suffered by Cambodians under her leadership is unfathomable.

Thirith, although judged unfit to stand trial, was reportedly energetic in her defense in a 2009 hearing. She repeatedly claimed that the Khmer Rouge’s top ideologue was responsible for “everything.” She cursed her accusers to the “seventh circle of hell.”

It is nauseating to think of what Thirith’s victims feel when they hear her words. We stand with our friends in Cambodia in hoping for as much justice as can be realized at this late stage in the world’s accounting of this atrocious regime.