Sunday, October 04, 2009

No smiling

It's as well my posting here is usually erratic, otherwise I might have to explain the latest radio silences. As it is, I have been off to places where you can see signs like this.



The sign isn't as silly as you might think, nor is it really neccesary. For it comes from Tuol Sleng, Phnom Penh's museum of genocide. The tens of thousands who died there were a tiny fraction of those killed by the Khmer Rouge in what is, I think, one of the very few examples of a group committing genocide against their own people. (Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar was worse, killing half of her population albeit over a much longer period.)

Anyhow, even a snapshot of what Pol Pot and co got up to in that one corner of their Khmer agrarian socialist paradise gives the strong impression that - despite some pretty strong competition - they were the most inhuman of all the many despotic regimes that disfigured the last century (I mean, even Kim Jong Il lets people watch the odd sports match or artistic performance; there was nothing except subsistence farming under Pol Pot.) On the other hand, they've just started the trial of the chap who was in charge of Tuol Sleng, it might even finish before he dies of old age; I think that sends out a firm message to anyone contemplating something similar.

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