I just finished another book chronicling the history of Cambodia during the past fifty years. Needless to say, the Khmer Rouge held center stage. What a rabid pack of ruthless thugs they were! Approximately two million Cambodians died as a direct consequence of their four year reign of terror. The first trial designed to prosecute the criminal perpetrators was concluded last year. One hundred and fifty million dollars was spent to convict one man who admitted his guilt before the trial even started. He was known as 'Duch'. Duch was administrator of a detention center in Phnom Penh called Toul Sleng. It had been a local high school designated as S-21. Over twenty thousand suspected traitors were detained there during the four years. It is not known for certain how many of that twenty thousand survived the tortures. One man claims to be the only person to survive. Others insist that there were as many as five or six prisoners who survived.
So, one hundred and fifty million dollars to stage a war-crimes trial in one of the poorest countries in the world. Where the hell did all that money come from and where did it all go? The money came from Western nations…much of it funneled through the United Nations. These were primarily the same Western countries which had turned their backs on Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge took control of the country from 1975 until 1979. The atrocities occurring in Cambodia were well known within the first year. The West simply didn't give a damn. The United States, in particular, was fed up with the tribulations of little brown Asians by that time.
Then, the guilt set in.
When the trial got underway, sixty percent of the Cambodian population was under the age of eighteen. The vast majority of that population had no direct experience of the Khmer Rouge at all. They didn't care what had happened. They were pre-occupied with eking out a livelihood in a country that had been ravaged by violent conflicts for half a century. Teachers, doctors, accountants, businessmen, bankers and Buddhist monks had been slaughtered. The entire infrastructure of the joint had been left in ruins.
The guilt of Western nations blossomed.
It's a fair bet that fifteen percent of the one hundred and fifty million dollars found its way into the pockets of the country's ruling elite. Without its acquiescence, there would have been no trial. The West wanted that trial more than Cambodia did. The West wanted it desperately. The self-righteous have a great deal of trouble dealing with guilt.
So, aside from the requisite graft, where did the rest of the money go to convict this one, frail and sickly old man? Well, most of it went back to the minions of the Western powers…the lawyers, judges and their staffs. They were housed in luxury accommodations, wined and dined at the finest restaurants and chauffeured around town in very expensive vehicles. Not exactly a hardship posting for these virtuous hypocrites. They made out like bandits. When all was said and done, not one dime went to compensate the victims or their surviving relatives. But, the West had assuaged its guilt and walked away feeling good about itself.
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McFinn is from Chicago and currently resides in Cambodia. He has a degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University. Much of his work should be considered humorous and fictionalized memoirs. There are also satirical essays. Location settings include Thailand, Cambodia, India, Burma, Morocco and Greece. Excerpts, reviews & purchase information are available via his website: www.morganmcfinn.com
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