via Khmer NZ
The Cambodian genocide occurred between 1975 and 1979, but it was not until last week, some 30 years later, that a United Nations-backed tribunal convicted Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Incredibly, he is the first major Khmer Rouge perpetrator sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Duch had been in charge of the notorious prison Tuol Sleng, where 14,000 Cambodian victims were routinely photographed, tortured and killed.
In a letter to the editor published Aug. 11, 1997, I seemed hopeful that the new Cambodian government "would bring to justice all major criminals, starting with the key perpetrator of the Killing Fields, Pol Pot. Preferably, he would be brought before an international tribunal."
This never happened. His savage Khmer Rouge followers had engaged in monstrous crimes of human destruction. It is estimated that about 1.7 million people perished due to starvation, slave labor, disease, torture and execution. Their violent deaths were contrary to Pol Pot's own peaceful end. He was never brought to justice and died of natural causes in 1998.
Yet no pursuit of justice will return the tens of thousands of victims whom Primo Levi called the "sommersi," the submerged, the drowned, the annihilated. Levi warned the world that new genocides might happen again. His warning must be taken seriously.