He's a short man, gray hair, definitely Cambodian – old and grizzled as he should be for his late 60's. The only thing between him and I was some thick (likely bulletproof) glass. I guess this is the typical setup at all genocide tribunals. Today I caught a glimpse of history in the making as the (never-ending) trials resumed for Duch (Kaing Guek Eav) – former leader of the infamous S21 Toul Sleng torture school in the Khmer Rouge war.
Until this point we have only been keeping watch over his old school from our balcony. It's still a busy place, but with mostly tourists coming by choice now to view the school in its current state as a museum. Iƒ??ve been wanting to pay the old headmaster a visit for a while now. Heƒ??s up first for trial followed by the even more sinister Khmer Rouge leaders (all who havenƒ??t died yet awaiting trial).
This international tribunal sure drags on and now I know why. Duch huddles behind a desk in the back after already confessing his guilt and resentment while a bunch of purple robe clad lawyers drag on and on with repetitive language and article this or that. This morning's talk centered around the fact that Duch has been held without trial for 10 years now and his defense lawyers petition for his release for the duration of the trials. First comes a passionate speech by one of the Cambodian defense, followed by a long-winded statement by a French defense attorney who referenced on and on about how precedent clearly lays out the obvious next direction to take (citing previous trial outcomes with Rwanda and Yugoslavia).
Anyway, I don't think this is a question of guilty or not guilty ƒ?? that answer is obvious. It comes down to how many of the numerous crimes are going to laid forth to pay justice to the endless victims. And then there is the question of the current powerholders – how deep can the trials go before unveiling their role in the atrocities? In the end, how are these old men going to be dealt with? Will taking a few more lives ease the pain and horror of the past, or is it time for some reconciliation and moving forward into the already bright looking future that the new generation sees?
Here is an recent and interesting article that may be of interest: Notorious Khmer Rouge killer Comrade Duch confesses his crimes