More than 30 years after the Khmer Rouge slaughtered some 1.7 million people, Cambodians have received a small measure of justice and a reminder that justice may not be swift, but justice is resolute. Today’s verdict against two of the most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge is a milestone for the Cambodian people who have suffered some of the worst horrors of the 20th century.
Of all the work I was a part of as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for 29 years, I’m especially proud to have traveled so many miles between Phnom Penh and Washington to work with Cambodians to create the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). This issue mattered deeply to me as someone who experienced American foreign policy in a personal way as a young man, serving in the region, and I wanted to be just as personally engaged in the work to find closure decades later.
The effort to try those most responsible for these horrific crimes was long overdue and absolutely vital.
I’ll never forget the inspiring story of the photojournalist Dith Pran, whose survival during those bloody years was a triumph of the human spirit. He once said, “The dead are crying out for justice.” And believe me: through the ECCC, the international community is working together to make sure that those cries are finally heard.
The United States will continue to support the efforts of the ECCC to secure justice and shed light on the darkest chapter of Cambodian history. Today’s verdict is a historic, if long delayed, step along the path for Cambodia. We must now help Cambodia’s people see the job through as they usher in a new era of justice, accountability, and reconciliation.