For 30 years since the brutal Khmer Rouge regime was driven from power, Cambodians have lived with unresolved trauma, with skulls and bones from killing fields still lying in the open and with parents hiding the pain of their past from their children.
On Monday, Cambodia took a significant step toward addressing its harsh past with the first conviction of a major Khmer Rouge figure in connection with the deaths of 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979.
But some survivors were distraught over what they saw as a lenient sentence, one that could possibly allow the defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, 67, commonly known as Duch, to walk free one day.
A United Nations-backed court found Duch (pronounced DOIK), the commandant of the central Khmer Rouge prison, Tuol Sleng, guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 35 years in prison for overseeing the torture and killing of more than 14,000 people. The court reduced that term to 19 years because of time already served and in compensation for a period of illegal military detention.
“I am not satisfied!” cried one of the few survivors, Chum Mey, 79, who had testified in excruciating detail about his 12 days of torture. “We are victims two times, once in the Khmer Rouge time and now once again.”
He was shouting in agitation in the muddy courtyard outside the tribunal building.
“His prison is comfortable, with air-conditioning, food three times a day, fans and everything,” he said. “I sat on the floor with filth and excrement all around.”
It was the first time in Cambodia’s modern history that a senior government official had been made accountable for serious human rights violations and the first time such a trial had been held that met international standards of justice.To read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/27/world/asia/27cambodia.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a4