Thursday, 16 July 2009

Too Late for Revenge

The New York Times

Published: July 15, 2009

I WAS 15 in 1975, when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge overtook Cambodia, enslaving my people and turning our farmland into what the world now calls the Killing Fields. During the next four years I lost my mother and father, my brothers, aunts, uncles and friends to the cruel oppression that claimed 1.7 million lives.

As a boy I prayed every day for someone to stop the slavery and the killings. No one did. I saw soldiers force people to dig the holes in which they would be buried alive. We ate mice, rats, lizards. My 8-year-old niece starved before my eyes. I cried until I had no tears.

I survived by cutting our Khmer Rouge leader’s hair and making bamboo baskets, which my elders used to carry away the dirt we were ordered to dig from canals. In 1979, alone and desperate, I escaped to a Thai refugee camp. Sponsors helped me gain passage to New York City in 1982. I spoke no English, had no money and lived tormented by images of cruelty and death.

Today, I own a hair salon in Manhattan and live with my wife and two children in Scarsdale. We have enough to eat, to call a doctor or buy medicine when sick, and money left over for charity. I wonder why I am so blessed.

Now I read about the United Nations trial of Kaing Guek Eav, known as Comrade Duch, the Khmer Rouge commander of the Tuol Sleng prison. I read the testimony of victims and witnesses, like me, of torture and murder.

And I find myself asking, what sort of justice is possible now? After ignoring our suffering when action might have saved our country, what does the United Nations expect to do for Cambodia now? Placing elderly Khmer Rouge leaders on trial will not bring back those who lost their lives in the Killing Fields, or bring peace to the survivors. It will only stir more anger and misery and hate. Pol Pot, the chief criminal, is long dead. So are many of the others who killed and tortured at his command.

For Cambodians, this should be a time of cooperation, peace and prosperity. Around 70 percent of Cambodia’s population is under 30 years old. They didn’t experience the Killing Fields, and they face enough challenges in their daily struggle to make ends meet. We who were lucky enough to survive once looked forward to trials, but it has been 30 years — too much time has gone by for us to want to waste our energy seeking revenge.

I don’t mean to say we should forget. We can’t. Let the horrors be documented in books and films and let the truth be recorded for the entire world to learn. But by pursuing this trial instead of working to improve the lives of young Cambodians, the United Nations demonstrates it still has not learned the lesson of the Killing Fields: Act before it’s too late.

Marshall Kim, the owner of a hair salon, is the founder of the Cambodian-American Foundation for Education, a charitable organization.


Anonymous said...

I find this article disturbing! Even though I was not a part of the Killing Fields, my parents were. I would like to see justice served for the ones who lost their lives. Do we in America let killers go because it's been so long? NO WAY JOSE, take a look at the Green River Killer. He is being punished for what he had done. He didn't even kill nearly 1/4 of what the Khmer Rouge did. PLEASE ALLOW JUSTICE TO BE SERVED. Just because many years have past, doesn't mean you can get away with it!Set an example for the future Felons.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with you, no matter what Justice need to be done properly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your agreement :)

Anonymous said...

off course, he want “justice” too BUT from whom????
it is the truth “too liter Too Late “ we will never see 1.7 million lives that lost will came back a live again include’ his parents and his family.

it is the truth only anger ,misery and hate and Pol Pot’s bones and alone with 1.7 million peoples bones left for us .
a man who was responsible for 1.7 million lives was death “ Pol Pot
“ by the way, himself can not killed 1.7 million lives he need many thousands of Khmer Rouge to do this job and they all still living with us what are we going to do about them? kill them all ? put all of them in jail ? and when peace will be for Cambodian ?

please, bring peace to Cambodia not a " misery show "

Anonymous said...

Mr. kim I think you are very wise.


For punishment to prevent crime it must be swift, certain and severe - in that order. With out the first two, that last really serves no purpose except revenge.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kim !
we wish to have more peoples like you in this world.

it was extraordinary and like everyone of your loyal "subjects" was deeply moved.

What touched me most was your humanity and that your focus is on what can we do for your community today, why spend the energy on revenge....and what is important about that thought is how this applies to everything else in life.

we are in and complete agreement with you that the world needs to help build a new Cambodia and not dwell on the past.

We are proud of you for both your survival and passion for life. You are an inspiration to us.

Anonymous said...

it was already 30 years why not wait for an other 30 years to find justice

let me tell you my friend ! the Killing Field, could happen again any time any where the trail will not prevent it . we must stop and punish them soon as it is happening. if we are waitting it will be too late again and again.

look 1937 to 1942 German killed about 6 millions Jewish.

1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge killed all most 2 millions Cambodian (Cambodian killed Cambodian).

1994 Rwanda killed each other lost a millions of their own peoples.

what kind of justice will going to stop the killer and when the
all the death peoples will come back alive ? and when are we going to have peace ? we must make ours peace no one will do it for us!

wake up !!