Some events in world history make me question my opposition to capital punishment. Two individuals who took part in one of the 20th century’s most grievous crimes against humanity provide the latest test to my commitment.
Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea — the last known survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia — have been given life sentences for their role in the genocide that killed roughly 2 million Cambodians in the 1970s under the despotic rule of the regime led by the late Pol Pot.
These individuals are old now. They likely will die soon in prison. When they do they should both rot in hell right along with Pol Pot and the other monsters who committed those atrocities against Cambodians.
Pol Pot was captured in the late 1990s and died in custody.
I have had the distinct honor of twice visiting the site of the Khmer Rouge’s unspeakable brutality. The killing field at Choeung Ek and a prison camp at Tuol Sleng will last forever as the Khmer Rouge’s legacy of murder, misery and mayhem. The monsters tortured and killed the intelligentsia of their country at Tuol Sleng — once the site of a school — and then buried their remains at places around the country such as Choeung Ek.
They sought to create a totally agrarian society. Learned professionals had no place in that society. Neither, shockingly, did their children.
In 1989 and again in 2004 I was privileged to see first-hand those sites. The sight of them and then hearing the testimony of those who survived that dark time filled me with immense grief, touched with a tinge of guilt. The Cambodians have built a memorial at the site and filled a “stupa” at Choeung Ek with skulls excavated from the mass graves that were discovered by Vietnamese troops during their years-long occupation of Cambodia, which ended in 1989, about a month before I arrived there with a group of journalists.
In 1989, after touring the killing field burial site, and after hearing from a woman who survived the mayhem that “If the Khmer Rouge return, we all will be soldiers” who will fight them to the death, I boarded a bus, waiting to depart.
I broke down and cried.
Justice has been delivered to two of the monsters who brought such heartache to a beautiful land. May they live the rest of their lives on Earth in abject misery.