Some additional information and personal thoughts of
Professor Kenneth J. Herrmann
former US Vietnam Vet and now activist for peace
who is dedicated to assisting the victims of Agent Orange.
Most people are familiar with the film The Killing Fields.
Many noticed yesterday that a special tribunal began the trial of a Khmer Rouge leader who was partly responsible for the genocidal slaughter of 1.7 million Cambodians, directed by Pol Pot, the madman who declared the year 0 and abolished money the day his revolution took charge of Cambodia in 1975.
Observers are aware of the heinous murder of babies (often slicing them in two), the cutting open of pregnant women and the eating of the fetus, the attacks on neighboring Vietnamese villages and the slicing out of Vietnamese captives’ livers (which were fried and eaten by the Khmer Rouge).
Many are aware of this horrible history.
Few seem to recall that the United States supported the Khmer Rouge. President Carter and his administration, in fact, were the strongest supporters of Pol Pot’s murderous regime. They channeled money through China to arm and support these killers. Carter, however, will not be tried during the war crimes’ trials in Cambodia.
In fact, fewer still might know that the Khmer Rouge representative to the United Nations was Thiounn Prasith (known for justifying and often covering up the Khmer Rouge genocide), who lives in Mt Vernon, NY with the protection of the US government.
He is known for urging Cambodians during the Khmer Rouge rampages to return to Cambodia to what they did not know would be a certain death. Among these were Sokhom Hing, a professor at SUNY Stony Brook and an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War, who was tortured for ten days at the S-1 Prison before being murdered.
The commander of this infamous prison is the first to stand trial this week. Sokhom Hing’s bones might be among the tens of thousands tourists view today when they visit this prison in Cambodia. If so, I presume they call out for justice for the Khmer Rouge official who personally talked him into returning – Thiounn Prasith – and the American leaders who supported this horror.
Bush left office with a track record of a blatant disregard of human rights, attacked two nations under the guise of national defense, two nations that had nothing to do with the attack on New York. His record of violations of American and international law seems endless. Congress seems to care less.
The rest of the world knows our human rights record: the genocide and oppression of Native Americans, slavery, two nuclear attacks on civilian populations in Japan, Vietnam War, the denial that our spraying 20,000,000 gallons of Agent Orange has had deleterious effects on the Vietnamese while we compensate American vets for brief exposure to the chemical, Gitmo and torture, avoiding the basic rights of Americans guaranteed by the Constitution under the guise of the war on terrorism, using tens of thousands of mercenaries in Iraq, and providing safe haven to known terrorists in America – terrorists whom we supported. We kill the leaders of other nations we do not like and condemn others for less heinous acts which are often a response to our arrogant oppression of people around the world.
Cambodia is just one small nation in which we supported a massive genocide a few decades ago, but is more than a memory for those families who recall how Jimmy Carter sanctioned and supported the horror. For many, he is a champion of human rights. For many this phony image and Thiounn Prasith living a comfortable life in Weschester County is but another example of our loss of moral standing on the world stage.
Kenneth J. Herrmann, Jr., LCSW, ACSW
Associate Professor, Dept. of Social Work
Director, The College at Brockport Vietnam Program
Exec. Director, Danang/Quang Nam Fund, Inc.