Zac Baker, Blog Assignment #9

This past week, we’ve been staying in Phnom Penh. PP is much less touristy than Siem Reap. Yesterday, we had planned to go to Choeung Ek (a “killing field”) and Tuol Sleng (the S-21 prison). Unfortunately, due to time, we were unable to go to Tuol Sleng, but we will be doing that later today.

With things like this, it’s not always easy for me to say what I actually mean to say. Like, it’s a good experience to see these places. It’s good to learn about the tragedy of Cambodia. It’s good to learn about the horrors that happened. While it is good, it’s very sobering. As I walked through Choeung Ek, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be there. I think it’s probably impossible to do so even remotely accurately. I also tried to figure how anyone could justify that to themselves and others. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s just an extremely dark mystery of humanity.

Another thing we did this week was go to ECCC to try to sit in on the trial of three (plus one with dementia who is in a different boat) of the mid- to high-level officers in the Khmer Rouge. It’s interesting to me that they are being tried some 30 years later. I wonder if they ever felt guilty or felt like they were in the wrong? Or did they feel justified in their actions? Did they see anything wrong with it? I don’t know.

It’s angering to think about the Khmer Rouge Era.

Last night, we were also given the opportunity to eat with Theary Seng and listen to her speak. A very interesting thing that she brought up was the assumption of innocence. In national courts, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. But the ECCC is not a national court. History was written, and it’s fairly widely known what was done. Does the ECCC really have to prove guilt, or just the extent of the guilt? Does this undermine basic human or civil rights? I’m not sure. Lot’s of uncertainty in many of these matters. Things to think about, anyways.

-Zac Baker


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