Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Khieu Samphan in the dock at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal; one of the heads in the corner belongs to Cambodia scholar Raoul Jenner, who was also in the audienceIf you believe Khieu Samphan's version of events, he must've been living in a bubble during the Khmer Rouge control over Cambodia in the 70s and only heard about the deaths and massacres of his own people in the late 80s. Despite admitting to following Pol Pot around like a lap-dog, Samphan claims he was no more than a titular leader of the Khmer Rouge regime, chosen for his unifying qualities, and yet for 25 years he was the public face of the organization, whilst Pol Pot wielded all the power. His professed admiration, nay love, for Pol Pot was clear for all to see during the Facing Genocide documentary that I watched for the first time at Meta House this evening. I felt the filmmakers gave Samphan an easy time of it, asking few difficult or searching questions and portraying him in most, as an elderly grandfather wishing to see out his days, surrounded by his family and pottering around his garden. Not as the head of an organization that oversaw the deaths of around 2 million of their fellow countrymen. He brushed off questions about S-21, saying it was a small matter compared to the massive S-21 that was taking place in Kampuchea Krom. And the filmmakers let him get away with it. Jacques Vergès, Samphan’s defence-lawyer, came across as the brutish bully and media-whore that he's renowned for whilst So Socheat, Samphan's wife of 40 years, sounded like she too lived in the same bubble as her husband. Butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. There was no apology, no remorse, no guilt admitted. I didn't believe a word of it.