Cambodia is a country cursed by its history but it seems determined to keep itself mired in government corruption and a failure to prosecute, let alone punish, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime.
I’ve written before about the dreadful situation in Cambodia and recommended people interested in the subject read Joel Brikley’s book ‘Cambodia’s Curse’ but the recent news the UN tribunal (part Australian government funded) designed to prosecute only the Khmer Rouge’s senior figures will not proceed further with the trial of Ieng Thirith is appalling.
Thirith, the sister-in-law of Pol Pot and the regime’s minister for social affairs is accused of crimes that resulted in the deaths of thousands of people but is too ill for the trial to continue.
This leaves just three Khmer Rouge figures facing trial – KR head of state Khieu Samphan, KR foreign minister and Nuon Chea, the KR chief ideologist known as ‘Brother Number 2’. The tribunal has managed just one verdict, to imprison the head of the infamous Tuol Sleng torture centre and prison in Phnom Penh, Kaing Guek Eav known as ‘Duch’.
This is an appalling outcome for a tribunal designed to give the victims of the Khmer Rouge’s murderous communist ideology some justice and allow the country to begin a process of rebirth so Cambodia’s people can more on from their tragic history.
Sadly the tribunal has been subject to much of the same incompetence and corruption seen throughout much of Cambodia’s government apparatus and the consequences are obvious – despite being responsible for the brutal murder of close to one quarter of the population of Cambodia, close to 2 million people – decades after these monsters have been removed from power there has been just one judicial verdict. Its enough to make you sick.
And Australia’s government, who is part-funding this charade should be asking serious questions about how this UN endorsed tribunal can be working so slowly that it appears to be almost trying NOT to reach verdicts until the accused are so old or frail that their trials must be stopped.
Remember, all the Khmer Rouge leaders on trial are in their 80s. This is very old by Cambodian standards but let’s face it, they all had access to better food and healthcare than just about every other Cambodian during the country’s worst times. And these evil people were the one’s pointing the guns and creating the twisted ideology.
You can read the details of the tribunal’s decision to release the Khmer Rouge’s ‘first lady’ in The Age here but you will probably wish you hadn’t.