Living in His Father’s Shadow: Exploring Healing Justice and Reconciliation in Cambodia with Duch’s Son

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
Leakhena Nou California State University Long Beach

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Nearly four decades after the Khmer Rouge genocide, the Cambodian people have found some solace to a tragic past that forever has defined their personal and collective identities. The first of five defendants on trial in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (the ECCC), Kaing Guek Eav (alias Duch, Chief Warden of S-21) was found guilty of crimes against humanity and Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and sentenced to life imprisonment on 3 February 2012. Aside from his criminal reputation as the head executioner of S-21, what other legacy does Duch leave behind? In particular, what psycho-emotional legacy does he leave his children? This paper focuses on the social and political legacy passed on to Duch’s eldest son as it affects the possibilities for his contributing to reconciliation, forgiveness, and ‘healing justice’ in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia. The paper also warns against casting perpetrators’ children as bystanders to their own history or as being guilty of their parents’ crimes, and provides an alternative Khmer Rouge narrative: that of the children of perpetrators and how their identities fit within the larger Cambodian national identity and search for justice.

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