Cambodia: justice after genocide

Khmer Rouge mass killings were followed by cynical geopolitics. By the time justice took the stand, was it also impossible?

Many Cambodians born after the short but violent period of the Khmer Rouge, which lasted from mid-April 1975 to December-January 1978, cannot believe the horror stories of the previous generation. “My parents tell me their stories, but I did not believe them,” says Uon Silot, a fiction writer and farmer, who adds: “They said to me – the reason we are telling you is so that the same does not happen again, this time to you.”

How difficult should it be for those parents to tell their traumatic stories? And how painful is it to be faced with disbelief? The idea that it might be impossibile to pass the story of mass violence even to one’s own children poses further, existential questions. Are we as a human civilisation capable of learning “lessons” from history? And consequently, can we immunise the next generation from human violence and self-destruction?

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