The Missing Picture.
Cambodia court begins genocide trial of Khmer Rouge leaders
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan accused of overseeing mass killings of up to 500,000 people in the 1970s.
Cambodia‘s UN-backed Khmer Rouge court has begun a second trial of two former regime leaders on charges including genocide of Vietnamese people and ethnic Muslims, forced marriages and rape.
The complex case of the regime’s two most senior surviving leaders has been split into a series of smaller trials, initially focusing on the forced evacuation of people into rural labour camps and related crimes against humanity.
The first trial against the most senior surviving Khmer Rouge leader, Nuon Chea, 88, known as Brother Number Two, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 83, was completed late last year, with the verdict – and possible sentences – due to be delivered on 7 August.
At the opening hearing of the second trial on Wednesday, judge Nil Nonn read out the charges against both suspects as more than 300 people watched the proceedings from the court’s public gallery.
A few days ago Le Monde published an account of how the paper reported on the Khmer Rouge victory, ” Le jour où… « Le Monde » salue l’arrivée des Khmers rouges“
“17 avril 1975 : l’envoyé spécial du « Monde » décrit l’« enthousiasme populaire » qui accompagne l’entrée des Khmers rouges à Phnom Penh. Au fil des mois, face aux révélations des exécutions de masse, tiers-mondistes et anticommunistes de la rédaction s’affrontent par éditoriaux interposés.”
17th April 1975, the special reporter of Le Monde described the “popular enthusiasm” that greeted the entry of the Khmers rouges into Phnom Penh. During the months that followed, faced with revelations about mass execution, ‘third-worldists’ and anti-communists fought each other, through rival Editorial comments.
This dispute was echoed across the world, with particular effects on the left which had previously backed the Khmer Rouge as a national liberation movement – without much first-hand knowledge.
Crucial witness accounts emerged that revealed the genocide underway.
François Ponchaud’s book, Cambodia: Year Zero ( Cambodge année zéro) was particularly inlfuential. Ponchaud, a French priest, had lived in Cambodia and spoke Khmer. He also painted a picture of mass deaths caused by the Khmer Rouge. French scholar, Jean Lacouture, formerly a sympathizer of the Khmer Rouge, reviewed Ponchaud’s book favorably in the New York Times Review of Books on March 31, 1977.
The revelations by François Bizot were also of great significance (Wikipedia),
In October 1971, Bizot and his two Cambodian colleagues were captured by the Khmer Rouge. During his captivity on charges of being a CIA agent at the Khmer Rouge Camp M.13 at Anlong Veng, he developed a strangely close relationship with his captor, Comrade Duch, who later became the Director of the infamous Tuol Sleng concentration camp in Phnom Penh. During his three-month imprisonment he came to understand the true genocidal nature of the Khmer Rouge long before other outsiders. He was finally released in December 1971 after Comrade Duch wrote a detailed report that convinced the Khmer Rouge leadership of Bizot’s innocence. Bizot’s Cambodian colleagues were executed soon after Bizot’s release.
When the Khmer Rouge poured into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Bizot, like most other foreigners in the country, wound up in the French Embassy in Phnom Penh. Because of his fluency in Khmer, he soon became the primary point of contact and unofficial translator between the embassy officials and the Khmer Rouge. He left Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge expelled all foreigners and sealed off Cambodia’s borders. He returned to Cambodia in 2003 and met his former captor Duch, who was waiting for his trial for crimes against humanity, for about one hour and a half (a few minutes of the encounter were put on film). These moments can be seen in the documentary “Derrière Le Portail” (“Behind The Gate”). Comrade Duch was on trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and received a 35 year sentence, later increased to life from an appeal. Bizot was the first witness to testify at the trial.
Noam Chomsky was perhaps one of the best known genocide deniers at the time.
He called these, and other revelations (Cambodia Genocide deniars),
“third-rate propaganda” and part of a “vast and unprecedented propaganda campaign” against the Khmer Rouge. He said Ponchaud’s book Year Zero was “serious and worth reading” but “the serious reader will find much to make him somewhat wary.” Chomsky said that refugee stories of Khmer Rouge atrocities should be treated with great “care and caution” as no independent verification was available.
In case anybody thinks that Cambodia genocide denial has gone away, the US ‘leftist’ Counterpunch has provided a comfortable refugee for at least one of them, Israel Shamir.
In 2012 he wrote on the fiercely ‘anti-Zionist’ site,
New Cambodia (or Kampuchea, as it was called) under Pol Pot and his comrades was a nightmare for the privileged, for the wealthy and for their retainers; but poor people had enough food and were taught to read and write. As for the mass killings, these are just horror stories, averred my Cambodian interlocutors. Surely the victorious peasants shot marauders and spies, but many more died of American-planted mines and during the subsequent Vietnamese takeover, they said… Noam Chomsky assessed that the death toll in Cambodia may have been inflated “by a factor of a thousand”… To me, this recalls other CIA-sponsored stories of Red atrocities, be it Stalin’s Terror or the Ukrainian Holodomor… [The Vietnamese] supported the black legend of genocide to justify their own bloody intervention.
Pol Pot Revisited. September 2012.