Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
In preparation for our field study to Cambodia, we were given a brief introduction about the history of Cambodia, the conflict between Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, the rise in power of Democratic Kampuchea, the massacre in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge and an update of the current situation in Cambodia.
Although I had heard about Cambodia’s massacre in the news when it was first uncovered, as well as watched the 1984 film The Killing Fields, I did not have much knowledge about Cambodia until I was formally introduced of the subject in class. The tragedy of Cambodia was so distant from my day to day life then.
Through later readings about the Pol Pot regime, I cannot help but try in vain to rationalize their thinking at the time. As far as I know, all the communist leaders, e.g. Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, never purged nor conducted any genocide to other ethnic minorities inside their country so I would guess then that it was not something Pol Pot had learnt from socialist thinking. On the contrary, he benefited a lot from Cambodia’s monarchic institutions in his childhood and had the good opportunity to study overseas so I would assume that he was “civilised” and had empathy towards others (or maybe not…). I would think also he learned about the aftermath of Hitler and that evil acts will never prevail and will eventually be purged. So what made him and the others think that they would be exempted from later prosecution. I simply cannot comprehend. The rationale behind his insanity remains a phantom to me.
I guess what astounds me the most is how manipulative and blind human beings can be when it comes to frantic belief in ideology without critical thinking. Later in the course we shall be talking about how religion can play a role in peacebuilding. While I look forward to learning more about that then, I thank God that there is no magic potion that anyone can take to be able to live perpetually. I still believe in the righteousness of humanity and that we should all make the best out of it.
Spencer Leung, Hong Kong
Rotary Peace Fellow
June 2013 Session