Thanks to Khmer New Year, for most Cambodians might have overcome "the gate to the killing fields," 36 years ago.
April 14, 15 and 16 of 1975 were the days that Phnom Penh was surrounded by thousands of Khmer Rouge’s soldiers with black pajama and their Chinese weapons. They were going to triumph over the American backed regime of the Khmer Republic led by General Lon Nol. Their victory was declared on the 17 of April.
Then a few weeks later the Cambodian Capital became a ghost town where there were, “streets and houses without people.”
36 years seems a long time, but for many of us—the living history tellers-- who survived the worst atrocity in our life, the event was just yesterday.
For me, the horrifying episode of my life recurs yearly as we celebrate the Khmer New Year which falls on the same days of the Khmer Rouge’s victory. My personal inquiry of “why” nearly three millions Khmer people died in a short period of time remains unchanged.
Hundreds of thousand Cambodian people who died before and after the Khmer Rouge era have been completely overlooked. The innocent civilians who were killed by the U.S bombings have also been forgotten and those individuals who were responsible for the atrocity have not been brought to justice. The policy makers, some of them are still alive, have been protected and deliberately shielded.
Some reports claim that from 600,000 to 800,000 Khmer people were killed during the five-year war from 1970 to 1975. The exact numbers of Cambodian killed during that period is not known, but given the tonnage of American bombardments and many thousands of American, Chinese and Russian weaponry used inside Cambodia, we can only imagine how many more Khmers had maimed and vanished but were not reported.
Then at least 1,700,000 more were murdered or starved to death by the hand of the Cambodian communists led by of Pol Pot, supported by the Chinese and the Vietnamese.
The Khmer Rouge Trial or the KRT in short, is seen as a joke by many observers. Personally, I feel that the trial will not bring any justice to those millions who had died and to their offspring.
You may watch my interview at: http://youtu.be/rI8JZ4U9gTI
Although, the individual “executioners” like Duch (Kaing Gech Iev) and a few others who are named to stand trial-- must be punished, the buck should not stop with them. There must be hidden, untold or undiscovered people and causes that led to the mass killing.
The next wave of killings was during the Vietnamese invasion. Vietnam claims it had sacrificed 50,000 of Vietnamese soldiers to liberate Cambodians from the horrible crime committed by their former ally—the Khmer Rouge. However, the numbers of Cambodian soldiers on all sides and civilians who were executed under the Vietnamese control were not counted. Thousands of unarmed workers were sent to different dangerous war zones and most of them were killed.
While we celebrate our Khmer New Year on the 14, 15 and the 16th day of April--I would like to offer these days as the days to remember those who were victimized by the hands of the “executioners” and those “policy makers.” My heart goes out to those forgotten souls. While we enjoy this holiday season, may your soul rest in peace.