Thus explained Khmer Rouge apparatchiks on why children of perceived regime enemies were killed.
In the midst of America’s political and economic mess, it is worth remembering how blessed we are and how deep humanity can fall. Cambodia is in the process of trying the former commandant of Tuol Sleng, a prison that specialized in torture and murder, and from which only a handful of prisoners emerged alive.
The Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s killed babies and toddlers — sometimes by holding their legs and smashing their heads against trees — so they would not seek revenge later in life, the group’s former chief jailer said Monday.
Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, commanded the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison, where as many as 16,000 men, women and children are believed to have been tortured before being sent to their deaths.
Duch, 66, is being tried by a U.N.-assisted genocide tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes, murder and torture. An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died under the 1975-79 communist Khmer Rouge regime from forced labor, starvation, medical neglect and executions.
Duch recounted a Khmer Rouge policy on detained children: “There is no gain to keep them, and they might take revenge on you,” which he said was told to him by the regime’s former defense minister, Son Sen.
Today Tuol Sleng is a museum. I visited it several years ago, along with the “killing fields,” in which thousands of the Khmer Rouge’s victims were buried. Seeing the former prison is an experience simultaneously moving, sobering, chilling, and depressing. It offers a tragic reminder of the horrors that result when sinful human beings take control of powerful state institutions and seek to remake society. No wonder liberty is so precious.