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The Khmer Rouge: uniquely wicked, rarely punished

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The Khmer Rouge: uniquely wicked, rarely punished


From 1975 to 1979 the Khmer Rouge imposed a reign of terror in Cambodia, murdering intellectuals, re-educating urban populations through forced labour, and using indoctrination and hunger to coerce the people into submission.

Pol Pot and his fanatical supporters were educated in France by hardcore Marxists; their dictatorship was every bit as bloody as Robespierre’s, 200 years before. Comrade Duch was one of the regime’s instruments, running Camp S21, where thousands of men, women and children died. It was a former school in the heart of the capital, Phnom Penh. Officially people were imprisoned for opposing the regime: in fact they could wind up there for anything. Even wearing spectacles could be considered a crime. Torture would be followed by execution, with Duch even specifying killing days; Mondays for women, Wednesdays for children, and so on. It was extermination, pure and simple, but the world would have to wait until 2006 for these crimes to be tried. To this day only four leaders have faced justice at the special UN tribunal; brothers numbers two and three, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary, and Khieu Samphan. However villain number one, the regime’s leader Pol Pot, died in his jungle hideout in 1998, and others have also escaped justice like, say critics, Henry Kissinger, who they claim did nothing because the Khmer Rouge was a thorn in the side of the Vietkong in neighbouring Vietnam.

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