The film "The Killing Fields" gave the outside world a chilling account of Cambodian reality under the rule of Pol Pot and his dreaded Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. More than a million Cambodians died of starvation and violence under the murderous regime but no top leader among the Maoist revolutionaries has been tried for these monumental crimes against humanity.
Now two Khmer Rouge leaders have fallen into the hands of the Cambodian government, and they are asking their countrymen to let bygones by bygones. Never--not in this case.
Khmer Rouge guerrillas led by Pol Pot, who died last April, forced millions of families from Cambodian cities and towns to the countryside where they worked as slave laborers. Khieu Samphan, 67, and Nuon Chea, 71, key figures in the terror, now dare to seek refuge in the capital, Phnom Penh, under a deal with Cambodia's leader and prime minister, Hun Sen. He has given them sanctuary and promised they would not be turned over to any outside authority. Few men deserved more to be tried for the crimes against humanity.
It's a deal with the devil, but then Hun Sen himself was once a Khmer Rouge leader. He has not been directly implicated in the Khmer Rouge terror, but is a rough player in Cambodian politics and a onetime coup leader himself.
The defectors from the ragtag remnants of the Khmer Rouge should be "greeted with bouquets of flowers, not with prisons and handcuffs," he said, and indeed the two men have been housed in luxury hotels.
This dirty business might have ended right there had not Cambodia's King Sihanouk refused to brush aside the past. What's proper, he declared from Beijing, where he is undergoing medical care, is that the two guerrilla leaders should face an international tribunal for their crimes against humanity. The 76-year-old king said that such a tribunal would have "the perfect right to take up the case of genocide in Cambodia . . . that concerns the conscience of the community of all the world's people."
Clearly, Hun Sen does not belong to that community.