Khmer Rouge Leaders Formally Indicted.
September 16, 2010 4:49 AM   Subscribe

The four most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge have been formally indicted for genocide, and will stand trial next year. Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan had all previously surrendered to the government under amnesty deals. Senior goverment officials have refused to appear before the Cambodia Tribunal as witnesses, and the tribunals judges are split on whether they can be compelled.
posted by Ahab (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
What happened in Cambodia was genocide of the highest order. Here's hoping that justice happens.

Interesting recent article: Why did a radical British professor become a cheer-leader for Pol Pot? And why was he murdered on the very day he'd met the brutal dictator?. Although focusing on one small story from the period, it provides a good grounding in the horrors that country faced.
posted by Hartster at 5:10 AM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Marxist regime emptied the cities and abolished money and schools in the late 1970s in a bid to create an agrarian utopia, wiping out nearly a quarter of the country's population before they were ousted from the capital by Vietnamese forces.

I always thought it ironic that the Cambodian people were saved from Cambodian Marxists by Vietnamese communists. Nixon really was an evil genius.
posted by three blind mice at 5:25 AM on September 16, 2010



Though the wheels of justice grind slow, they grind exceedingly fine.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:33 AM on September 16, 2010


Slow? > than 30 years is glacial.

So, last year, Duch was given 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why in the name of all that is SANE is the sentence for war crimes anything less than life imprisonment with no chance or parole?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:37 AM on September 16, 2010


I'm for justice, but whats up with the surrendering under amnesty and then being indicted? No one else have a problem with this? End justifies the means?
posted by sfts2 at 5:38 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Though the wheels of justice grind slow, they grind exceedingly fine.

meanwhile Kissinger is rotting in prison and after his trial in the U.S. for war crimes...
posted by ennui.bz at 5:39 AM on September 16, 2010


I'm for justice, but whats up with the surrendering under amnesty and then being indicted?

What one administration does, a succeeding administration can find a way to undo, especially if popular sentiment was against the first administration's action.

And I suppose the current administration doesn't think anyone else important will be surrendering, amnesty or not, so there's no good tactical reason to keep their word about amnesty to the people who have already surrendered.
posted by pracowity at 5:58 AM on September 16, 2010


Of course, this doesn't do anything to the ones granted amnesty that moved over here to the U.S. I used to work with one when I lived in Boston. He was the CFO of our company. At first I thought he was a refugee, but was corrected by the company CEO, himself a former member of OSS back the day. During one office party the CFO got pretty drunk and started talking about how he used to be this big "General" and how he'd worked his way up the ladder from the age of nine starting out as a cook. He then started trying to remember how many people's executions he'd called for. Total dick.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


meanwhile Kissinger is rotting in prison and after his trial in the U.S. for war crimes...

Yes - no one responsible for the virtually genocidal bombing of Cambodia in the years before the Khmer Rouge came to power have ever faced the slightest hint of justice. Without that bombing, and other US actions, there probably never would have been a Khmer Rouge government. Hundreds of thousands were killed and the country was so utterly destroyed that even the US military said, immediately before the Khmer Rouge came to power, that a million people would probably die of starvation and that the only way to prevent even worse loss of life would be to … empty the cities and use the only resource available, manual labor, to quickly rebuild the agricultural economy.

Also meanwhile, no one responsible for the proportionately worse genocide in East Timor has faced the tiniest hint of justice either. In my experience, maybe one or two out of a hundred of the people upset about the Khmer Rouge atrocities have even heard of what happened in East Timor - or know about what the US did to Cambodia in 1965-75.

So, last year, Duch was given 30 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Why in the name of all that is SANE is the sentence for war crimes anything less than life imprisonment with no chance or parole?

Well, if he'd been a US president or secretary of state, he would have been given the Nobel Peace Prize.
posted by williampratt at 6:25 AM on September 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


"I watched Khmer Rouge officials welcomed back to Phnom Penh by U.N. officials who went to astonishing lengths not to offend them. Khieu Samphan, Pol Pot's henchman who once said that the only mistake the Khmer Rouge had made was not killing enough people, took the salute of U.S. and other U.N. troops as a guest of honor on United Nations Day in Phnom Penh." Link
-John Pilger The Nation magazine, May 11, 1998
posted by vapidave at 6:32 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


... no one responsible for the proportionately worse genocide in East Timor has faced the tiniest hint of justice either.

Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting:

Inaugurated 13 months after Indonesia's December 1975 invasion of East Timor, Carter stepped up U.S. military aid to the Jakarta regime as it continued to murder Timorese civilians. By the time Carter left office, about 200,000 people had been slaughtered.

Elsewhere, despotic allies — from Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines to the Shah of Iran — received support from President Carter.

In El Salvador, the Carter administration provided key military aid to a brutal regime. In Nicaragua, contrary to myth, Carter backed dictator Anastasio Somoza almost until the end of his reign. In Guatemala — again contrary to enduring myth — major U.S. military shipments to bloody tyrants never ended.

posted by Joe Beese at 6:43 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


An interesting parallel is happening in Spain with Judge Garzón's investigation into Franco era crimes against humanity.
posted by kmz at 7:46 AM on September 16, 2010


Spalding Grey - Khmer Rouge history primer (from Swimming To Cambodia)
posted by hippybear at 8:03 AM on September 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


I recall reading that Nuon Chea apologized for all the animals that died under the Khmer Rouge.
posted by electroboy at 10:17 AM on September 16, 2010


Although focusing on one small story from the period, it provides a good grounding in the horrors that country faced.

but very telling.

We can never know if Caldwell would have taken Ponchaud more seriously had Chomsky not been so sceptical, but it's reasonable to surmise that the Scotsman, who greatly admired Chomsky, was reassured by the American's contempt. (from guardian article)

Without that bombing, and other US actions, there probably never would have been a Khmer Rouge government.

well...no, there would have been. The KR took Phnom Penh a week before the fall of Saigon.
BUT, the bombing did not help and did increase the support of the KR in the country side. In the cities, they fought until they were overrun.

also the term 'auto-genocide' stems from Cambodias long nightmare.

and Kissenger should answer for his part.
posted by clavdivs at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2010


well...no, there would have been.

I'm not an expert on the history but I think my point is correct. The KR had been a minor force in Cambodia for decades. Three (at least) things fundamentally changed this:
1 - The US was waging a tremendous war in the region, one which ultimately killed millions and destroyed three countries.
2 - The US overthrew the Cambodian government and installed Lon Nol, who was both unpopular and vicious.
3 - The US bombed the hell out of Cambodia for many years, not to mention directly invading the country. Cambodia had more bombs dropped on it than were dropped by all of the Allies during the entirety of WWII. Much of it was a free-fire zone for years.

These factors played an essential role in providing fertile soil for the KR to become a major force and to become so radicalized. It's worth remembering that the KR launched insurrections against the Cambodian government in the 60s but were very unsuccessful. The overthrow of Sihanouk by a foreign power allowed them to position their struggle as a war for national liberation and gather that much more popular support. They were practically the only ones who could wage such a struggle (even as the KR kept their identity and full program a secret). The horrors of the US bombing pushed many more to support the KR, as well as further drove its leadership into a hyper-radicalized corner. By the end of all this, the KR had about 20 times more members and vastly more popular support than it had in the mid-sixties.

I think it's clear that without the US actions, the KR would likely never have become a major force. And even if they had, it wouldn't have inherited such a ruined country and have had the same opportunity to carry out such disastrous policies.
posted by williampratt at 12:22 PM on September 16, 2010


1 - The US was waging a tremendous war in the region, one which ultimately killed millions and destroyed three countries.

yes. and no. talk to the ministry of information (Cambodia) it is in the yellowpages, and ask them if the country is still "destroyed" . despite our wars and an auto-genocide they survive and flourish.

2 - The US overthrew the Cambodian government and installed Lon Nol, who was both unpopular and vicious.

lon nol was HM Sihanouks' #1 military man since '55 and knew him since the 40s'. When you set up an anti-communist appartus like Nol did, there might be a reason? and this was in the 60's and HM was trapped between the US, soviet Union, China, and Vietnam....communism all over the place and they do NOT like monarchs. You should know that the khmer rever thier monarch, even Pol Pot could not bring himself to assassinate him. (thats saying something)
so...by 1970...

3 - The US bombed the hell out of Cambodia for many years, not to mention directly invading the country. Cambodia had more bombs dropped on it than were dropped by all of the Allies during the entirety of WWII. Much of it was a free-fire zone for years.

yes, see your first item.


(even as the KR kept their identity and full program a secret)
very secretive.org yes but even salot sar was known as early as 62' to be a top member, if not before AND perhaps the instigator of Tou Samouths arrest. Sar (pot) fled in'63 to Vietnam....

more later. tired
posted by clavdivs at 6:06 PM on September 16, 2010


"Cambodia had more bombs dropped on it than were dropped by all of the Allies during the entirety of WWII."

It's close if you only consider Europe but as of right now (apparently there are dark periods in the records of the US campaign in Indochina) 2,770,540 tons of ordnance was dropped by the Allies on the European theatre in WWII and 2,756,941 tons on Cambodia by the US between 1964 and 1973.

I can't find a quick source on the tons drop by the Americans in the East during WWII and I don't know whether the European theatre number includes activities in Africa; the latter would be relatively minor anyways. Fat man and Little Boy were ~30-40 Kilotons all by themselves.

Hard to say whether the Allied activities in the East would outstrip the dark records in Cambodia. Still a pretty amazing equivalence that shows off the superiority of the B52 over Lancasters and B-29s and other smaller aircraft. (Also the fact that Cambodia didn't have much in the way of a air defence helped out)
posted by Mitheral at 1:24 AM on September 17, 2010


talk to the ministry of information (Cambodia) it is in the yellowpages, and ask them if the country is still "destroyed"

Fine, but the fact that something which was destroyed was later rebuilt does not nullify the fact that it was destroyed and the impact it had on people at the time.

When you set up an anti-communist appartus like Nol did, there might be a reason?

I'm relying on memory here, but my understanding that the Lon Nol coup was not so much over concern about the KR than it was about Sihanouk working with the Vietnamese and China, and the US desire for a compliant regime which allowed US troops and bombers to go unmolested in Cambodia as they went after the Vietnamese. The KR were active, but they were small, and their attempted insurrections were failures. The coup government didn't have much legitimacy, which undermined people's willingness to defend it, particularly when it was so brutal. And from what I remember, the KR didn't even really have a coherent strategy for gaining power.

Simply put, the KR went from being a small (according the some, minuscule) force to being the dominant military and political power during the period in which the three factors I mentioned stand out like sore thumbs. Correlation is not causation but I don't see anything else offering any explanatory value (with the possible exception of Chinese aid). Sihanouk himself said that while the KR were always killers, they were created by the US, and that without the US the KR had no hope of gaining power. Others, such as Duch and William Shawcross, have said largely the same thing.

You should know that the khmer rever thier monarch, even Pol Pot could not bring himself to assassinate him. (thats saying something)

I'm just speculating here, but if they revered their monarch perhaps they were upset at the people who overthrew him. Perhaps they then turned to the one organization which seemed to be able to do something about it. Didn't the KR not just not assassinate Sihanouk but collaborate with him at times?

It's close if you only consider Europe but as of right now (apparently there are dark periods in the records of the US campaign in Indochina) 2,770,540 tons of ordnance was dropped by the Allies on the European theatre in WWII and 2,756,941 tons on Cambodia by the US between 1964 and 1973.

You're right - I was no doubt mis-remembering something which said basically what you're citing.
posted by williampratt at 9:57 AM on September 17, 2010


finally a debate.
first you write very well so i will put on my grammar hat.
it an important subject to me and you seem to know your stuff

Fine, but the fact that something which was destroyed was later rebuilt does not nullify the fact that it was destroyed and the impact it had on people at the time.

a good point which i want to address first.

I feel the destruction was primary the KR, as in the social fabric of life they unwove. i.e
angka loeu (sic sp) system. the using of children as killers and solders, the destruction of the family unit, currency, etc.

what i must address first is that i do not agree with your premise

I think it's clear that without the US actions, the KR would likely never have become a major force. And even if they had, it wouldn't have inherited such a ruined country and have had the same opportunity to carry out such disastrous policies


it is a point from i can agree to a certain degree, but cannot except as a whole.
i cannot start to much today, i do want to debate this so I will start with this, today

I'm relying on memory here, but my understanding that the Lon Nol coup was not so much over concern about the KR than it was about Sihanouk working with the Vietnamese and China, and the US desire for a compliant regime which allowed US troops and bombers to go unmolested in Cambodia as they went after the Vietnamese.

not bad memory. Yes, by 1970, HM Sihanouk was caught between so many powers, he became
politically stuck. as an example Khieu Sampham was named to the cabnet in 62-63 showing Sihanouks' swing towards the left began way before 1970.
my point is the history before the 1970 coup.

The KR were active, but they were small, and their attempted insurrections were failures.


this is why most of the KR top cadre fled to vietnam...in the 1960s for training, arms, etc. hence the precieved danger to the monarchy gets ramped up.

my primary source in Chandlers' work.

The coup government didn't have much legitimacy, which undermined people's willingness to defend it, particularly when it was so brutal. And from what I remember, the KR didn't even really have a coherent strategy for gaining power.

true and not. coups never have legitimacy, IME, they create one later. The KR was a loosed based cadre system but pol pot knew what he was going to do when he took power AND the people of Cambodia were tired of years of ceasless intrigue and wars (going back to the Japanese invasion lets say) also the nature of the Cambodian people was a factor...

i think that was the deciding factor because the commanders were pleding with the U.S. for more guns, to the last day. And we BETRAYED them.

not an organized first stab but i like this.

more later.
posted by clavdivs at 10:35 AM on September 17, 2010


His first important conflict with the anti-Communist Cambodian government of Prince Norodom Sihanouk came the following year, when L'Observateur was banned and Samphan was arrested, forced to undress and photographed in public.

Despite this humiliation, Samphan was invited to join Sihanouk's Sangkum, a 'national movement' that operated as the single political party within Cambodia. After Sihanouk's swing leftward in 1963, Samphan's economic theories were put into practice in an extensive nationalisation programme.


-from Samphan wiki page.

man oh man we got some things to discuss
(so what, if samphan did not tow the line, they would "use the photos"

a cambodian friend said that humor was the last to die.
posted by clavdivs at 10:41 AM on September 17, 2010


finally a debate.

Uh, don't get too excited - I am rapidly approaching the limits of my knowledge here.

I feel the destruction was primary the KR …

I can't speak to how much damage they caused (or its character) prior to '75. But to the extent they were in a position to cause the damage you note it seems to me, again, to be due to the impact of the US bombing and invasion and the Lon Nol coup. They simply weren't in a position to do that much before all of that. The KR were handed an opportunity and they took advantage of it.

i think that was the deciding factor because the commanders were pleding with the U.S. for more guns, to the last day. And we BETRAYED them.

Mao once said words to the effect that the life of a running dog of US imperialism is difficult and short. I doubt weapons could have changed the situation in Cambodia towards the end, and the US was no longer in a position to help.
posted by williampratt at 2:41 PM on September 17, 2010


i see your knowledge is limited, and Mao is dead, so are his ideals.
again, to be due to the impact of the US bombing and invasion and the Lon Nol coup
that is your opinion, with some fact. i won't change your mind.
you seem to think the genocide was all the americans fault which is simply not true. You do not know about the KR (and that is a sihanouk term) before 1970 or 1975? that says it all.
In my experience, maybe one or two out of a hundred of the people upset about the Khmer Rouge atrocities have even heard of what happened in East Timor - or know about what the US did to Cambodia in 1965-75. sad that people do not know, But i suppose most would not care and we all suffer from that mindset.

i think your winging it and could not debate this subject, just mask an opinion with nice sentences, no offense. so your premise:

These (US casuality) factors played an essential role in providing fertile soil for the KR to become a major force and to become so radicalized

well, your wrong, not to duck to the U.S. guilt.
posted by clavdivs at 11:15 PM on September 17, 2010


i won't change your mind.

Provide some relevant information. Link to some kind of authoritative source. Present a coherent argument. Actually refute the evidence and arguments that I've put forward. These are the kinds of things which could change my mind.

you seem to think the genocide was all the americans fault which is simply not true

My position has been stated pretty clearly. Misrepresenting it makes it easier to dismiss but doesn't really move a debate forward.

You do not know about the KR (and that is a sihanouk term) before 1970 or 1975? that says it all.

When I say that I can not speak to a particular point, this means that I don't know enough to say more one way or another. It doesn't mean I know nothing. I actually have read quite a bit about the KR going back to their founding. You managed to evade my actual point (which I won't bother to restate because I think it's clearly stated), perhaps because you were focused on making assumptions.

i think your winging it and could not debate this subject, just mask an opinion with nice sentences, no offense.

I am actually debating the subject, though I'll stop now. What you've have mainly done is say I'm wrong repeatedly, throw out fairly random and mostly irrelevant details, slip in some ad hominem crap, with all of it wrapped up in a pretty muddled package that often makes little sense. No offense.
posted by williampratt at 2:26 PM on September 19, 2010


sorry, thought you left

I doubt weapons could have changed the situation in Cambodia towards the end

ok. you are wrong.

"Shawcross has suggested that CPK military forces also pressed for victory with depleted epuipment in 1973. Their advance on Phenom Pehn was delayed or stopped by the American bombing."

-from, The Tragedy of Cambodian History, David Chandler, pg 226.

Without that bombing, and other US actions, there probably never would have been a Khmer Rouge government.

you typed that no?
You stated opinion under neat writing to make it sound like you know about S.E Asian history.

I have just refuted one premise with a real citation and not some wiki site.

When I say that I can not speak to a particular point, this means that I don't know enough to say more one way or another.

what does that mean?
Then why say one way or another i.e. bombings are causation or even partial caustation in the KR to taking power.
screw debate...discussion is more accurate it was a dicussion.

I have refuted your "evidence" sir, so what will it be, if you do respond, my cap locks gone wild, do not like Chandlers premises, I sound funny?

What might make you change your mind is the end of Chandlers book, it speaks to the heart of this matter...
"Few politicans after independence (not 1975) bothered with the day-to-day concerns or material welfare of the resilant, impoverished people on whose behalf they claimed to rule. Doing so might have implied sharing power with them, instead of knowing better"

Ibid. pg.317

know YOU counter with citations to my refutaion of your opinion.
posted by clavdivs at 10:46 AM on September 20, 2010


here is some more
posted by clavdivs at 11:31 AM on September 20, 2010




here is support for your position:

"...Duch testified that the Khmer Rouge would have likely died out if the United States had not promoted a military coup d'état in 1970 against the non-aligned government led by Prince Norodom Sihanouk."
posted by clavdivs at 1:50 PM on September 20, 2010


what a pratt.
posted by clavdivs at 8:22 AM on September 23, 2010


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