Trials began today for the first member of the former Khmer Rouge regime to face a mixed Cambodian and international criminal court on charges of genocide. Kaing Guek Eav, the former warden of S-21in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, has been indicted on charges that include crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva conventions. At least 1.7 million Cambodians died between 1975-1979 at the hands of the Khmer Rouge from execution, disease, starvation and overwork.
The news of the trial’s start made headlines in the country, and people were feeling “very numb,” Youk Chhang, head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, where about 20 members of the public had gathered to watch the televised proceedings, told CNN.
In memory of those who were lost:
As a child trying to understand the Khmer Rouge regime, I had many questions about the strange world that had overtaken my homeland. At twelve years of age, during the Khmer Rouge regime, I asked my older sister, Chea, a question in the hope of understanding our pain and the loss of those I loved. He answer became the seed of my survival, planted by a sister who I idolized.
“Chea, how come good doesn’t win over evil? Why did the Khmer Rouge win if they are bad people?”
Chea answered: “jchan baan chea preah chnae baan chea mea,” which means “Loss will be God’s, victory will be the devil’s.” When good appears to lose, it is an opportunity for one to be patient and become like God. “But not very long, p’yoon srey,” she explained, and referred to the Cambodian proverb about what happens when good and evil are thrown together into the river of life. Good is symbolized by klok, a type of squash, and evil by armbaeg, shards of broken glass. “The good will win over evil. Now, klok sinks, and broken glass floats. But armbaeg will not float long. Soon klok will float instead, and then the good will prevail.”
From “When Broken Glass Floats” by Chanrithy Him