Today, a tribunal in Cambodia sentenced Comrade Duch, former supervisor of Tuol Seng Prison, to a lengthy prison term. I join the chorus of those who see a miscarriage of justice. Instead of justice, it is yet another instance of the ghost of the former Soviet Union hijacking the conscience of the world, and, in so doing, corrupting it.
First of all, it is wrong to identify only the Pol Pot Democratic Kampuchea movement as responsible for the Cambodian horrors of 1975-78. Second, it is a travesty to turn the Tuol Seng prison into a monument, and focus on what happened behind its walls as the symbol of Cambodian suffering. Tuol Seng was simply the place where the Khmer Rouge regime incarcerated its own, while ordinary Cambodians suffered and died in their own villages or resettlement areas. Tuol Seng is a monument to that portion of the Cambodian Communist Party which fell afoul of its own movement's propensity for internal intrigue and purge.
Immediately after the Khmer Rouge victory, the faction associated with Hun Sen was equally culpable in the mass murders of mostly non-Communist countrymen. Only following a personal falling out between Hun Sen and Pol Pot did the former rush to seek "rescue" from the Vietnamese. Prior to that falling out, Hun Sen and his henchmen were very much part of the Angka Loeu, aquiescent in the "revolutionary catharsis" taking place across their country, and part of the relatively privileged ruling elite.
The mass of the Cambodian democide's victims fell and went into unmarked graves in the countryside, especially in the northwestern portion of the country. These were the people who had the misfortune of having more than an elementary education, proficiency in a language other than Khmer, adherence to a traditional religion, myopia, or the peasant stubbornness that cannot understand why it must give up the family buffalo and farm tools to the abstraction known as the collective.
However, the people who suffered at Tuol Seng are remembered because they, like so many 20th century people, smoked the Marxist opiate of the intellectuals. Ultimately, their faction came into alliance with the Soviet Union, the power under whose benign supervision the mass of the European intelligentsia hoped to live and work. Never mind that this idea whose time had come between 1917 and 1989 proved to be a singularly bad one. Never mind that it counted more killed, imprisoned, or exiled for the political or ideological crimes in seventy years (indeed, still does in North Korea and Cuba) than suffered for the wrong kind of Christianity or none at all in the fifteen centuries between the conversion of Constantine and Ruggles v. New York (1811). Never mind that when "The Revolution" failed to unleash the unheralded productive forces promised by Marx and Lenin, its adherents began to blame those fortunate enough to escape the revolutionary wrath. Never mind that, after loudly accusing all who questioned it of racism, it blamed the Slavic Untermensch, primitive Asiatic, and Caribbean Mulatto for the backwardness it imposed on all lands it conquered. Too many invested their minds and consciences in the Soviet Marxist project to reconsider when it failed. Well spoke Eugene Ionesco when he accused his Communist colleague Sartre of being the "unconscience of Europe".
But Hun Sen had the fortune to ally himself with the Soviet Union before it was too late.
The faces on the walls of Tuol Seng are those of cannibals eaten by their own colleagues; the Ernst Roehms who fell to a Southeast Asian Hitler. The ordinary victims of the Cambodian horrors have no monument apart from the memories of their relatives between Poipet and Long Beach.
As with the corruption of conscience and memory by the Marxists of the West, Tuol Seng is a hijacking and corruption of the world's conscience concerning the Cambodian democide. For Comrade Duch to stand in the dock while Hun Sen's people enjoy power and honor is yet another modern travesty masquerading as justice.