Cambodia's Crimes Unpunished: Reviews

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Cambodia's Crimes Unpunished: Reviews

Post by CEOCambodiaNews » Mon Dec 09, 2019 6:58 pm

Cambodia's Crimes Unpunished
Confronting the country's darkest hour and looking for answers.
Abby Seiff | Published in History Today Volume 69 Issue 12 December 2019

To be Cambodian is to have one’s life touched by the Khmer Rouge. The regime was in power for just three years, eight months and 20 days, but was responsible for an estimated 1.7 million deaths, about a quarter of the population. Forty years after its fall in January 1979, the scars are visible. It is rare to meet people who did not suffer some horror or inherit family trauma.

How to tell the story of a regime that unmade countless lives? In When the Clouds Fell From the Sky, journalist Robert Carmichael traces the history writ large from the lens of a single victim, Ouk Ket. In June 1977, Ket left his French wife and two young children in Paris to return to Cambodia. After almost a decade abroad – as a student and then a diplomat – Ket had built a life away from the civil war and US bombing that tore the country apart in the early 1970s. When the Khmer Rouge took control in April 1975, Cambodia went silent. Refugees who escaped to Thailand or Vietnam told stories of the regime’s brutality, but made little impression on a world stage. When the foreign ministry requested Ket and numerous other expatriate Cambodians return home, many did.

‘Come to Cambodia to get educated to better fulfil your responsibilities’, the letter read. Like many of his compatriots, Ket was a patriot. The opportunity to reunite with his parents and siblings and to help rebuild his nation proved irresistible. ‘He went back in that state of mind, in full confidence’, his wife, Martine, told Carmichael, three decades later.

Though his family would not learn it for years, Ket’s hopes were shattered upon landing in Phnom Penh. Drawing from surviving returnees’ accounts, Carmichael describes what the journey would have been like. He was sent almost immediately to S-21, the regime’s security centre, reserved for enemies of the state. He was imprisoned for six months, starved, tortured and forced to confess an absurd litany of crimes. He was executed on 9 December.
https://www.historytoday.com/reviews/ca ... unpunished
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