Cambodia is at a crossroads in its road to recovery from the brutal years of Khmer Rouge rule. Compare Cambodia today with the dark abyss into which it plunged under the Khmer Rouge and the picture looks pretty healthy, but look to its more successful neighbours and it’s easy to be pessimistic. Cambodia must choose its path: pluralism, progress and prosperity or intimidation, impunity and injustice. The jury is still very much out on which way things will go.
Another jury still out is that of the Khmer Rouge trial, sidelined by the politics of the Cold War for two decades, and then delayed by bureaucratic bickering at home and abroad. The trial is finally underway after many a In dispute between the Cambodian authorities and the international community, but it is by no means certain that the wheels of justice will turn fast enough to keep up with the rapid ageing of the surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. Military commander Ta Mok died in custody in 2006 and both iettg Sary and Nison Chea arc suffering from health complications, in the meantime, the budget for the trial just keeps on rising, reaching the US$150 million mark, amid allegations of corruption and political interference on the Cambodia side. The Khmer people deserve justice after so much suffering, but it could be argued that die nation would have been better served by a truth and reconciliation commission to get to the bottom of the who, how and whys, to cleanse the nation’s soul without seeking revenge. Knowing the truth could prove more cathartic to the average Cambodian than seeing a gang of septuagenarian revolutionaries on trial, 25 years too late.
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