Thursday, November 17, 2011

Updated and in Khmer

Vann Nath's painting of Duch is the cover of the translated book, Getting Away with Genocide?
The translation and publication of the book, Getting Away with Genocide? Elusive Justice and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, into the Khmer language has finally happened. With the help and translations from the DC Cam staffers, the book is out and is dedicated to the memory of Vann Nath, who died in September just as the book was in its final stage of production. The front cover is a picture of one of his final paintings, depicting Comrade Duch (the head of S-21) sitting in a field of skulls. The authors, Helen Jarvis and Tom Fawthrop, have updated their original 2004 manuscript to bring it up to speed with the recent trial of Duch and the forthcoming start of case 002. I reviewed their original book release back in the day and here is what I had to say about it:

With the long-overdue trial of the Khmer Rouge leadership about to become a reality, this is a well-timed and painstakingly researched publication by British journalist Tom Fawthrop and Aussie academic Helen Jarvis. Whilst I found great chunks of the book fascinating in its detail and as a window into the machinations of the Western superpowers, it began to lose my undivided attention in its latter stages as it explained the twists and turns of passing a Cambodian law to establish a tribunal and reaching agreement with the United Nations on its role. However, what it did highlight for me was the shocking cold-war political double-standards employed by the US and the UK governments, who helped keep the Khmer Rouge and their coalition allies in Cambodia's seat at the UN for eleven years, and who turned a blind eye to China's backing of the Khmer Rouge with money, arms and supplies through a coalescent Thai government. Only the Vietnamese stood up to Pol Pot's army and fought a long and bitter battle against their adversaries, whilst Cambodia suffered an outrageous and shameful aid boycott and another decade of war. The people of Cambodia deserved better. The Khmer Rouge were quite literally, getting away with genocide, while the UN and the Western superpowers used Cambodia as a pawn in their political power games. I found myself getting increasingly angry as I read the first half a dozen chapters of the book.

'Genocide' cleared up a lot of questions I'd harbored for years, particularly as I'd done my share of lobbying in the late '80s and early '90s, displaying my extreme displeasure at the UK government's tacit support of the Khmer Rouge. In fact, my own Member of Parliament, Nigel Jones, was very supportive as his brother had worked in Cambodia for many years, but few others in official office covered themselves with any credit. It certainly showed senior United Nations officials in a poor light, especially Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Hans Corel, the head of the UN's legal team, as they seemed hell-bent on derailing the whole process. Despite their opposition, the Cambodian people can now see some light at the end of the tunnel, after 25 years of inactivity, delays, frustrations and thwarted hopes. A mixed tribunal - one with Cambodian and international participation - might just give the Cambodian people the justice and closure they've been seeking for so long, after the Khmer Rouge were responsible for the deaths of over one quarter of the total population. I sincerely hope so. 'Genocide' tells the story of those 25 years in fascinating detail and is an invaluable reference for the forthcoming tribunal.

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