After too many decades of delay, the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia have finally gotten the trials of the last remaining Khmer Rouge defendants under way. The tribunal is a mixed court, sitting in Cambodia, with Cambodian judges and some international judges as well. Time has taken its toll on the quest for justice as most of the people who should have been tried for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians have already died themselves from natural causes. The trial of one of the five remaining opened this week. But, the trial takes place with a cloud over it. Defense lawyer, Jacques Verges, has repeated allegations made by other counsel as well that the Cambodian tribunal staff were required to pay kickbacks for their jobs, thereby destroying the legitimacy of the Tribunal. Evidently, the UN, aware of the allegations conducted an inquiry into the situation but did not release the findings. Cambodia will not get another opportunity to set the record straight on these atrocities. It is terribly important that the allegations of corruption be addressed openly, so the process can go forward with out taint.

In a sad note, the New York Times reported that for the most part, young Cambodians do not know about the Khmer Rouge atrocities despite the fact that almost all of their older relatives lost family members during this period. The subject has not been taught in schools and the children do not believe such brutality could actually have occurred. One wonders whether this is a good thing or not. This generation has not grown up with the fear and dread that haunts the survivors and that’s good. But one wonders, if they don’t know about the horror, would they be able to recognize should it come around again?

Perhaps only time will tell.