29 January, 2015 AsiaNews.it Twitter AsiaNews.it Facebook            

Help AsiaNews | About us | P.I.M.E. | | RssNewsletter | Mobile





mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato
e-mail this to a friend printable version


» 04/02/2009
CAMBODIA
Comrade Duch, from Khmer Rouge to Christian, alone to ask for forgiveness
Accused realised the enormity of his deeds when he embraced Christianity. For PIME missionary the demand for forgiveness is a “something new” in Cambodian history as people try to see themselves as part of a greater whole.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Kang Kek Iew, also known by his nom de guerre Comrade Duch, a former head of Security Prison 21 or S-21, has asked for forgiveness, expressing his “heartfelt sorrow” to the people of Cambodia for his crimes. In doing so he is taking a step that represents a major change in a country still inhabited by divisions, whose people are still reticent to face up to the massacres perpetrated by the Khmer Rouges when they were in power.

Comrade Duch, who ran the infamous S-21 prison where some 17,000 Cambodian died between 1975 and 1979, is the only Khmer Rouge leader to have admitted his role in torturing and killing civilians.

His step follows a personal journey that led him to convert to Christianity in 1996 after befriending a Cambodian-born Protestant clergyman, a journey very different from that of Pol Pot, the fanatical ideologue and leader of the Khmer Rouge regime, who died without appearing before the court, or the other four leading figures of the former Maoist regime on trial—Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Nuon Chea—who have also not owned up to their crimes.

Hun Sen, the current prime minister of Cambodia, is also a former official of the Khmer Rouge regime, and has dismissed with scorn any suggestion that he should appear before the tribunal, saying that before that ever happens he would see it starve of money.

Kang Kek Iew’s hearing, which was broadcast live across Cambodia, was closely followed by Cambodians, generating all sorts of reactions. Many excused the guilt of the past, simply saying that everyone was just following orders.

For Duch coming to grips with his crimes and his demand for forgiveness began in 1996 when he became a Christian after befriending a Protestant clergyman in a village near Battambang.

Listening to Rev Christopher LaPel’s sermons, the former head of Prison S-21, who had concealed his true identity under the name of Hang Pin, expressed a desire to be baptised.

“He changed totally after receiving Christ—180 degrees,” said LaPel in an interview to Times magazine. “He turned from hatred to love. He said he had never felt love in his childhood or when he grew up. So when he turned to Christ, love filled his heart.”

In retrospect, there were signs pointing to Duch's real identity. “Before he received Christ, he said he did a lot of bad things in his life,” LaPel recalls. “I don’ know if my brothers and sisters can forgive the sins I've committed against the people,” Duch said.

LaPel lost friends and family in S-21 too, but said he had “no personal hatred for the only member of the Khmer Rouge to have confessed a role in the movement's killing machine.”

Fr Alberto Caccaro, a PIME missionary with ten years in Cambodia, said that Comrade Duch’s confession is even more significant now.

“Acknowledging one’s guilt is how we see ourselves before God,” he said. “Many people were positively surprised by his confession, which strikes a different note from the rest.”

Cambodians have in fact not yet begun the process of reviewing the history of what happened in the 1970s when almost two million people died under the Khmer Rouges before the latter were driven from power. After that Cambodians turned the page in favour of modernity and “focused solely on material interests and individual well-being.”

“People have a hard time seeing themselves as part of a greater whole,” Father caccaro said. “Even in everyday language they tend to hide guilt. Admitting one’s responsibility is a no no—people would rather choose self-indulgence.”

Even thought bringing Khmer Rouge leaders to trail “will not remake Cambodian society,” “individual actions” like that of comrade Duch can be the “starting point for a more in-depth look at history.”

At the same time “we should not turn comrade Duch into some kind of saint,” said the missionary, “but his personal story, the timing of his confessions, and the realisation of the crimes he committed are something new for Cambodia.”


e-mail this to a friend printable version

See also
02/04/2008 CAMBODIA
Khmer Rouge ‘Brother Number Two’ before the judges
02/16/2009 CAMBODIA
Trial of Khmer Rouge leaders will not solve country’s problems, says PIME missionary
02/03/2012 CAMBODIA
Khmer Rouge Tribunal: Appeals court gives life term to Comrade Duch
06/29/2009 CAMBODIA
Khmer Rouge tribunal: the testimony of a survivor
11/23/2009 CAMBODIA
Phnom Penh: “useless” trial of “Comrade Duch” nears end

Editor's choices
IRAQ
The children of Mosul and the future: the "five-star" refugee camp
by Bernardo CervelleraIn the garden of the parish of Mar Elia beside the tents there are containers that serve as classrooms for the children and as a library. Another serves as a room for sewing. A children's choir. Fr. Douglas: "Taking care of refugees does not just mean thinking about eating, drinking, medicines, injections, vaccinations ... The displaced persons need to do something and to cultivate hope."
IRAQ
Way of the Cross: the refugees from Mosul beyond the emergency
by Bernardo CervelleraThere are at least half a million people who have taken refuge in Kurdistan to flee from ISIS. In the Shlama Mall at Erbil: 350 people living in the skeleton of a building under construction, with draped sheets and blankets serving as walls. The ordination of a young man, also a refugee, shows that with the flight, there is something that has not been destroyed: the faith, the traditions, the priesthood.
IRAQ - VATICAN
As 'Adopt a Christian from Mosul' continues, Mosul bishop notes that Jesus is born amid refugee containers
by Amel NonaPersecuted by the Islamic state, refugees have lost everything: belongings, home, jobs, school, and their future. Yet, their faith and mission remain strong. For them, almost 900,000 euros have been raised and sent. Pope Francis sends a message of closeness. The campaign continues according to the Patriarch of Baghdad's proposal of fasting and moderation at Christmas and New Year, with the money saved offered to the Christians of Mosul.

Dossier

by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
Copyright © 2003 AsiaNews C.F. 00889190153 All rights reserved. Content on this site is made available for personal, non-commercial use only. You may not reproduce, republish, sell or otherwise distribute the content or any modified or altered versions of it without the express written permission of the editor. Photos on AsiaNews.it are largely taken from the internet and thus considered to be in the public domain. Anyone contrary to their publication need only contact the editorial office which will immediately proceed to remove the photos.