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Douch trial : Karma justice or men’s justice?




The verdict was announced on July 26: Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Douch” has been sentenced to 30 years of jail. He was the head of prison S-21 under the Khmer rouge regime. Between 1975 and 1979, about 17000 cambodians have been tortured and executed there, only seven survived.

According to some medias, the verdict is quite soft but its must be noticed that the ending of this trial is a victory itself. Indeed, it rewards ten years of inquiries and dialogues with the local population ruled by silence, preventing any memory work to be accomplished. In cambodia, the memories of both executionners and victims coexist (sometimes in the same street or even in the same family), making Pol Pot’s reign period a painful and forbidden subject.

This nine-month trial is a great step forward, not only because Douch is the first Khmer leader to be judged for his crimes, but also because the court was not only an international one. Indeed, both cambodians and international judges worked together on this case. But most of all, it was the first time that victims could be represented as civil parties, not only as witnesses, before an international court. Douch then had to face his victims who were asking for their prejudice to be repaired.

Knowing the difficulties the international community had to face organizing this trial, all the work achieved must be congratulated: it really is a fundamental step of Cambodia’s history.

It has sometimes been said that cambodians didn’t fell involved in this trial, maybe as a consequence of a “karma justice” taught in buddhism, notably on the reincarnation level. But this silence of Cambodia’s people semms to reveal a threat more than an actual lack of interest. A tabou surrounding this beriod has been broken by the verdict. If some people saw this trial as an interference of the occidental world in this buddhist country, it seems that there was a real need of justice among the population; which this trial fulfilled, whatever some analysis said.
The TV channels broadcasting the trial knew peaks of audience and about a hundred people were civil parties in the trial. These figures may increase even more as four other khmer leaders are to be judged.

So what do you think? Is there any room for justice in buddhism? How do you relate karma justice and men’s justice?

Brice Andlauer for Buddhachannel

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