RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
March 6, 2009 Permalink

Cambodia and its War Tribunal

Last month, Cambodia began a trial for crimes against humanity that took place three decades earlier. The U.N.-backed tribunal has indicted and is now trying five former Khmer Rouge officials for crimes against humanity and war crimes during the years of 1975-79. In that short span, while the Khmer Rouge was in power, an estimated 1.4 million Cambodians died (possibly up to 2 million) due to Khmer policies, which included forced labor, outright executions, starvation, and torture - for an idea of the magnitude, click here for a visualization. All these acts were part of the Khmer Rouge's disastrous effort to dismantle their society and build a communist utopia. Now, 30 years later, Cambodia is still recovering - a young country, with over 50% of the population younger than 25, millions of leftover land mines, extreme poverty and a still-rebuilding agricultural system. Collected here are some recent photos from Cambodia, its people, the tribunal and more. Special thanks to my friend Alicia Conway, currently in Phnom Penh. (28 photos total)

Chum Manh, 78, one of the 14 Khmer Rouge prisoners who survived the S-21 torture center (now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum), shows his group photo in the museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on January 31, 2009. The U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal recently opened its first trial where 66-year-old Duch, also known as Kaing Guek Eav, faces charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and homicide while he ran the S-21 torture centre. (REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea)
more photos
This page lists only comments and the first photo for the entry.
To see the entire entry, with all photographs, click here.

67 comments so far...

Really strong expressions on those people's faces. Seeing those pictures from the prison reminds me of some of the concentration camps, really horrible.

Posted by Carl Johanr March 6, 09 12:11 PM

Moving images and a story that we should all take note of. Nearly 30 years ago, as a young child, I was the first to welcome and guide a Cambodian immigrant through his first day of elementary school. It is amazing now to see the history of what he was fleeing. We are fairly insulated in the US, but need to keep global perspective, continuing to uplift people here and abroad. I try to do my part by adopting the Day1 philosophy. Every day can be a new day.

Posted by BMcD March 6, 09 12:25 PM

Amazing pictures!

Posted by JP March 6, 09 12:50 PM

#2 is really disturbing...

Posted by ryan March 6, 09 12:50 PM

#28 - amazing look

Posted by Pawel March 6, 09 12:52 PM

[ great pics as usual ]

Posted by starbuck March 6, 09 12:56 PM

I wish they had a "no laughing" sign at Dachau concentration camp. When I went there in August, a group of young people somehow thought it was hilarious...
Isn't it sad that we need signs to make people understand how serious this is?
Thanks for the more "touristy" pictures in the middle, they took some of the tension away.

Posted by Pat in France March 6, 09 12:57 PM

#28 is ... tremendous. Just a perfect portrait,

Posted by Wam March 6, 09 12:59 PM

#28 is a very strong photo...Rarely you see a person and for that matter a kid devoid of any expression.

Posted by Ankur March 6, 09 01:26 PM

#19, beg your pardon for offtopic, I guess those are ladyboys, women are lower and usually less "handsome" in there.
Interesting story, thank you.

Posted by Vladimir March 6, 09 01:50 PM

Khmer Rouge killed 3million people by hitting hoe in their heads to save bullets
You can see cracks on these skull
As a Vietnamese I still wonder that what happen to this poor country if VN didn't save them from hell

Posted by Fonk March 6, 09 01:55 PM

I hope history does not repeat itself. Communism, and it's ugly cousin socialism is responsible for more deaths, without war, than all the world's wars put together (about 150 Million deaths). Right here almost 2mil people were butchered, because they were educated, had glasses on, worked as a thespian etc.. Any of these characteristics were a death sentence. Even in 'nice' communism (Cuba, Russia) you will be sent to a 'reeducation' camp if you are an artist or maybe you're gay or even religious. -Communism IS death-

Posted by TonyG LB-CA March 6, 09 01:58 PM

#28. Wow. Black and white. Perfect!

Posted by Josh Champagne March 6, 09 01:59 PM

#10 Yes, thank the glorious and open-minded VN for saving everyone from Pol Pot's slightly more brutal regime.

Posted by mdmdph March 6, 09 02:19 PM

Very sad and ugly. I can't understand the years of hell these people endured.

Why has it taken 30 years, for what seem to be very important leaders of the Khmer Rouge to be brought to trial. Have they hidden theselves that long, that well, or do they still have supporters? Of course, how anyone can supoort such evil is beyond me. The evil side of human is very, very, very ugly and sad.

Posted by Beaker March 6, 09 02:46 PM

Powerful photographs! Sad and somewhat inspiring. I wish that some day these kind of pictures would be impossible to make. But there is a long path to be walked if we want to wipe out this kind of human suffering from the face of the earth.

Posted by Celso March 6, 09 03:03 PM


but again...amazing photos

Posted by Kelvin March 6, 09 03:35 PM

Stunning pictures as usual, thank you.

#28 sparked the urge to protect her - from what and how, I don't know.

Posted by Norbert March 6, 09 03:36 PM

Vladimir #10, That is a wedding in photo 19, not "ladyboys". I participated in a wedding in Cambodia this past summer and a wedding is exactly what the picture is of. You can tell it is the reception by the red string tied around her wrist, showing that the wedding ceremony is already complete. Ladyboys wouldn't be dressed in wedding wear either.

Besides, Cambodian women are as "handsome" as any in the world :)

Posted by Mac March 6, 09 03:40 PM

As a tourist in Cambodia in 2003, and going to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng, these photo's brought back a lot of memories.

The Cambodian people are some of the friendliest in all of Asia, despite the hell they went through in the mid-late 1970's.

Posted by TravellingGuy March 6, 09 03:50 PM

TonyG LB-CA (Responder # 12): Easy there painting with such a broad brush! The US and its free world allies insisted that the murderous Khmer Rouge were the rightful representatives of Cambodia even after the Khmer Rouge were overthrown in 1979. The US kept vetoing all attempts by the Heng Samrin / Hun Sen government to claim Cambodia's seat in the UN. It is a shameful episode in the west's cold war that the Khmer Rouge elite like Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary continued to live in luxury (and impunity) in New York for more than a decade after being driven out. The world, and certainly Cambodia, is not black and white.



Posted by Thaths March 6, 09 04:40 PM

"Kissinger will not be in the dock in Phom Penh. He is advising President Obama on geo-politics." -- John Pilger

Posted by Sweejak March 6, 09 04:58 PM

God bless the people of Cambodia.

Posted by leo March 6, 09 05:37 PM

I wonder why no one ever stepped in and overthrow the Khmer regime when all of this happened. Is it because they posed no threat to the West and/or the country is so poor that it can't be exploited - so why bother?

Posted by HT March 6, 09 06:23 PM

It's ridiculous how the human race is so capable of such atrocities - it's just sickening.

Posted by Anonymous March 6, 09 06:49 PM

The former Khmer Rouge leaders look like they've led a very happy and healthy life since the end of their evil reign. I'm sure that there's a nice and toasty spot in hell for all of them....

Posted by David Orme March 6, 09 07:48 PM

That link to the *visualization* from the first paragraph just blows the mind.

Posted by duffy March 6, 09 09:32 PM

For comment #24:

Look up 'The Vietnam War' in wikipedia for an answer to your question.

Posted by duffy March 6, 09 09:37 PM

#28 : Impressionnant

Posted by Asty March 6, 09 11:56 PM

very interesting

Posted by Hanka March 7, 09 06:37 AM

@TonyG LB-CA Moron what are you talking?
Communism is a political party just like the rest of the world who have different political parties.

The murder of jews of WWII?
Philippines under martial law?
American Civil War?
And much more, is it Communism?

Point is regardless of the country it all depends on those leaders views,beliefs, political ambitions, conflicting local and foreign policies, nations interest, personal interest and etc. it is not the political party where a certain leader is affiliated with.

Posted by connelly March 7, 09 09:39 AM

One of my college classmates escaped from Cambodia as a young girl. She and her family were sent as forced labor to the rice fields and the guards, some of them children themselves, often threatened to kill her. These pictures remind me of her beautiful, resilient spirit.

May Cambodia emerge stronger still, as she did, and may the world react to such tragedies before, not long after. It's terrible that after each genocide, we keep saying "Never again," but they keep happening.

Posted by Ann March 7, 09 10:17 AM

It was as if I was there! Thank You! My eyes filled with tears and my heart goes out to them all!

Posted by Judy Dement March 7, 09 10:58 AM

Beautiful photos....#28 is amazing! Great job!

Posted by Amanda S. March 7, 09 11:24 AM

amazing photos and story, people everwhere should protect one another from the abuse of government where ever they are. We are the world.

Posted by surface March 7, 09 02:22 PM

#28: She is challenging us.

Posted by justcorbly March 7, 09 06:46 PM

Shows what happens when powerful men believe there's too many people. Hitler sure thougth so. Many others.

Posted by Aristopus March 7, 09 08:11 PM

Ever notice that it's always the "government" that kills it's people, and not the people themselves? Seems like an easy fix.....except for those that lived through it unfortunately. The shelf life of dictators and bad leaders should be shortened. Power to the people.

Posted by R2D2 March 8, 09 07:19 AM

#28 That captures what words cannot express. Amazing Job!

Posted by Donna March 8, 09 05:48 PM

#13 is just chilling...

Posted by jedb March 8, 09 09:03 PM

its showing realty of life !

Posted by ajit March 9, 09 08:10 AM

A government which arrests people who disagree with it and hold them without a trial. I wonder if Dick Cheney knows that they have stolen all his ideas?

Posted by pk March 9, 09 01:09 PM

To #21. To call the U.S. or any other country 'at fault' for not acting against the KR is like saying it's the fault of the police that someone was car jacked. The KR was busy with their killing a year or two AFTER the Vietnam war (more communist death). Do you suggest that after leaving Vietnam, that we (the U.S.) return just a year later to Cambodia (On the border with Vietnam) to begin the same war we just left? I’m sure the U.S. public would have objected to your idea at the time. To #31, you point out other atrocities, not committed by free countries, but then you also point out things like the American Civil War and Iraq, as if to declare freedom just as evil as communism. These are wars, there are combatants that have agreed to enter the field of battle and murder each other. They wear uniforms and don’t intentionally kill civilians. Perhaps you’re suggesting that we should not have had our civil war, perhaps you think we should still have slavery in the U.S.. Perhaps in your recollection, Iraq didn’t invade three of its neighbors and gas hundreds of civilians. Saddam was a great guy in your memory. These are wars and cannot be equated with the murder of innocent civilians for the sake of killing the innocent civilians and empowering the communist government. The death of any innocents during the Iraq was by the Allies was unintentional. The death I speak of was without war or accident, it was quite intentional. The KR and ALL Communist governments kill you without trial or crime; they kill you when you are at your home with your family. There is no war; they just kill you because they want to control you and everyone else. When someone produces the “this is how many innocent people have intentionally been killed because of freedom” then I’ll be quiet. We have such short memories, just a year or two before the killing fields Jane Fonda was parading around with the Communist North Vietnamese telling us how great Communism is, and now she’s back in movies and married to the guy who owns CNN.

Posted by TonyG LB-CA March 9, 09 04:56 PM

And so many Americans wonder why "soft headed liberal intellectuals" get so wound up about prisons like Abu Gharib and the torture of "terrorists".

Posted by Andrew March 9, 09 06:15 PM

TonyG LB-CA (Response # 43): You are right that the KR killed tens of thousands in the years immediately following the end of the Vietnam War (i.e., Apr 1975 - Jan 1979). In 1979 the Vietnamese troops with KR defectors crossed the border into Cambodia and overthrew the murderous KR. At this point, KR became a rebel force holding to less than 10% of the country. I was pointing to the fact that after 1979 the US actively supported the KR in holding on to their seat in the UN. The KR were a rebel force and not in power at this time. And I was not advocating for US troops in SE Asia. I am talking about in the corridors of diplomacy in the United Nations. I refer you to 'After the War was Over' and 'Brother Enemy' - two excellent books on the topic.

Posted by thaths March 9, 09 07:43 PM

So Communists killed the people of Cambodia and Communists freed them from their own hand. Who is right, who is wrong?

Things are never clearly black and white.

As a side, how many hundreds of thousands of Cambodians were killed during the Vietnam War's "secret bombings"? This barely even comes up as a blip on anyone's radar.

Posted by NT March 10, 09 03:00 PM

thanks for the pictures. great view on the tribunal.

cambodia still suffers from the terrible past, but the young generation is looking forward. there's a athmosphere of optimism, when you travel the country. i hope the political situation stays stable.

Posted by h. wuppke March 10, 09 06:26 PM

"I try to do my part by adopting the Day1 philosophy."

No offense, but in a photo post documenting the trial of the alleged leaders of the "Year Zero" Khmer Rouge, your comment is in pretty bad taste, imo.

Posted by Matt March 11, 09 12:15 AM

I live in Vietnam and have visited Cambodia a couple of times. The country is still in really, really bad shape. It feel like the modernized wild-west.

As for responsibility, the US does share blame. They created a situation in the country that made it possible for the Khmer Rouge to come to power. China is also to blame for befriending and supplying weapons. There is enough blame to go around in general.

I am not sure I can be optimistic about the country's future at the moment. It's starting to produce crude oil so that could be a plus but also could go wrong. The country is very far behind the rest of the world at this point.

Posted by T.S. March 11, 09 04:17 AM

In response to #18. The book, "The Road of Lost Innecence" by Somaly Mam is a devastating account of the present-day torture of young women and girls, some as young as 5 years old, as a result of poverty, and a history riddled by the devaluation of human life. There are heroic individuals working to make a difference in the lives of those so oppressed in Cambodia. If we want to make a difference, we could start here.
"Not for Sale" is another excellent documentation of human trafficking with multiple contacts to organizations working to make a strategic difference.

Posted by jenny March 12, 09 12:06 PM

It's good to see a bit of justice finally come to the long-suffering, beautiful people of Cambodia, most of whom graciously go on with their lives without bitterness over tragedies past. The U.S. also has much blood on its hands, thanks to the Nixon/Kissinger secret bombings, which indiscriminately killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodian villagers, and paved the way for the Khmer Rouge's rise to power.

This is the perfect time to try to atone for our atrocities and find ways to help Cambodians, who so desperately need it -- through direct support of NGOs doing good in Cambodian communities, despite the intimidation and corruption of the Hun Sen regime.

Posted by geosax March 12, 09 09:49 PM

I'm afraid that we may be creating a situation in Pakistan that will someday be as horrible as the KR period in Cambodia. Our country continues to send drone guided bombs into Pakistan even though they object and it is causing more anti American sentiment. My understanding was the KR went into Cambodia and toppled the government after we invaded and forced them in from the border. Hope that the Pakistani government secretly approves of the drone attacks.

Posted by George Kirkby March 14, 09 06:44 PM

As a visitor to Cambodia a couple of years ago, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the people. They are open, friendly, and willing to talk about what they've been through. Truly amazing given the history of their country. When I got back I was so touched I organized a fundraiser to support the many children who unfortunately have no parents and live on the street.

As always, phenomenal images. Thanks for bringing awareness to a country that doesn't get much media attention.

Posted by Tehya March 21, 09 07:53 PM

Europe, this is what real torture looks like. Not the make-believe Abu-Ghraib crap you've tried to spoon feed the world on. America keeps bailing you out of your totalitarian socialist utopian ideology that murdered millions in international and national socialist states.

God Bless America, HOME OF THE FREE.

Posted by Todd March 30, 09 09:39 AM

I am Vietnamese. During 80s, I was in Vietnam and then in jungles of Thai-Cambodian border. To this day, with my own experiences, the world is full of hypocritical powers. Only the POOR VIETNAMESE saved the CAMBODIANS from that genocide. God bless Cambodian People.

Posted by TCanada April 13, 09 11:45 AM

Cambodian people are beautiful. The country is beautiful, I want to go back. The people in Cambodia are very poor. Flying into Phnom Penh from Bankok was a startling dose of reality for me. I visited the killing fields. So, so sad. Although I traveled around various countries in the area, Cambodia has stayed with me ever since. I hope the best for this beautiful country and it's people.

Posted by Peace April 17, 09 08:08 PM

revenge is the human natural thing...BUT forgiveness is an unnatural act, a divine power given to those who are willing to be free from the pain of the heart and spirit. FORGIVING is the only attitude Jesus taught in the Lord's prayer because all things that surrounds us make us feel bad...everything that surrounds us is injustice. God gave us the medicine to live a life free from the bondage of hate and anger, that is TO FORGIVE. To REVENGE belongs to God. JUSTICE belongs to GOD. It might not be TODAY, but that DAY will come. How small or great your hurt-aches may be, you are just 12 inches away from it- head to the heart, AND BE FREE!
Forgiveness and Grace are the best attitudes God taught. Karma of buddhism teaches revenge through reincarnation...
Just try forgiveness and grace. It will never hurt you. It will never pull you away from your life. It will never cost you any cent or dollars.
It will only HEAL you emotionally and give you a fresh life.
I went through a lot of hatred as well (though a little different). But I too have to suffer all the sleepness nights, the revengeful feelings, and the hates...
Actually im not living THE life.
Try this: Put number 1 on letter A...go on through letter Z...thats number 26 i think.
Write ATTITUDE, then write the corresponding numbers. It will give you the total we need to live for this life.
Just forgive, as God forgave us.

Posted by darcy gem sabido April 27, 09 06:47 AM

Strong images.
As some commenters noted earlier, one sad thing is that the USA through its actions there indeed paved the way for the Khmer Rouge.

Unfortunately nobody seems to learn _anything at all_ from this, as the declared and undeclared wars currently ongoing show all to clear.

One thing I want to make note of that this was not genocide, since no particular race was targeted. I'm unsure what to make of the fact that mankind is obviously capable of doing such unthinkable things , but then fails to find an own name for them.

Posted by Torsten Schmidt May 21, 09 07:39 AM

i am so sad when i see all this picture .i wish cambodia to become grate country soon.

Posted by pinky panny August 21, 09 12:58 AM

i am jasmine wilson and i am here to comment about the wars it has been a crazy thought having that happen to us.This has captured many lives.

Posted by Jasmine wilson September 3, 09 08:37 PM

It was horrible how the Communist Khmer Rouge could kill so many people of their own. In April 17, 1975 I left Cambodia by a small fishing boat with other refugees, heading to Thailand. I could have been one of the victims prosecuted by the Khmer Rouge. I wrote and published a book about my escape to freedom and to America; it is my memoir that I passed along to my daughter; so that she would realize how lucky she is to be born in a free country.
Posted by William Wheaton on December 2, 2009

Posted by William Savy Wheaton December 2, 09 10:16 PM

Sweejag Kissinger ? What do you mean?

Posted by edgar helbling February 7, 10 01:18 PM

omg i cant belive this is still happening !!! thank god that pol potts is dead!!

Posted by Shauni Duffy April 23, 10 06:42 AM

No war, please

Posted by Ajithkumar.P.R June 29, 10 04:27 AM

No. 15-20 were unnecessary.

Posted by shenpeng11 August 6, 10 10:39 PM

It's a pity that the criminals were not tried sooner so they could be incarcerated in their own prison for a much longer time.
No. 2 is so horrible.

Posted by shenpeng11 August 6, 10 10:43 PM

Very Bad moment for world community not only for Combodian people. we oppose to this bloody war.........................................................

Posted by Meghraj Shankar March 9, 11 01:52 AM
  • Pin It
  • E-mail
  • E-mail this article

    Invalid E-mail address
    Invalid E-mail address

    Sending your article

    Your article has been sent.