I have been following the trial of General Duch of the Cambodia's Communist regime, the Khymer Rouge. This man was despicable. The regime as a whole was completely awful, and it amazes me that it could happen in the 1970's whilst the rest of the world simply looked on.
If you don't know the story of the Khymer Rouge then I certainly advise looking into it, it's a deeply harrowing story. In short it was a political revolution which tore the country apart and resulted in the mass murder of millions of it's innocent population. If you'd like to know more then read this article.
I visited Cambodia last spring as part of a world trip. Although I visited many places, Cambodia remained a place I still think of a lot. The things I saw in the short time I was there stuck to me, things such as the Killing Fields. The Killing Fields was a deeply saddening experience, and I can only imagine a place like Auschwitz comes close. It's a sad and desperately unsettling experience.
So why would I write about this in a blog about inspiration? Well the one thing that I truly remember about Cambodia was the people. The people are immensely inspiring to me. They are open, optimistic, and caring. The majority of people living in Cambodia are under the age 30 and are looking to the future. An age that's a startling reminder of the genocide that took place during Pol Pots rule.
A guide, when asked why everyone smiles, told me there's no point in being miserable and we should live life to the full. I think that's a wise comment from anyone, but especially wise from someone that's 23 and is born and raised in a country ripped apart by genocide.
One thing I remember that signified the optimism of Cambodia was it's night-life. We went to a nightclub "that Cambodians use" (as asked of the driver) and it was full of 20 some-things having fun and celebrating life. To see such a thing after walking through the mass graves of The Killing Fields was heartening. Here's a country that's been to Hell and it's now looking to move forward. Actually, it's also looking back. Very far back, beyond the Pol Pot rule and into the ancient civilisations that once reigned supreme in Siem Reap - the largest growing city in Cambodia. Look up the temples of Siem Reap.
Today though I regret to say that Duch hasn't received the sentence he deserves, escaping with what seems to be a possible 18 years. I guess it's fair to say that no amount of time in a cell can ever undo the horror he created. However the prosecution of a person so instrumental in the genocide of innocent people is a sign that the country is pushing forward. Not so much that its leader, a former member of Pol Pots government has condemned and put to trial more people like Duch but it's a start.
So fingers crossed the dark history of Cambodia will be undone and it gets the justice it deserves. Until that day I can only say that I think the people of Cambodia are truly inspiring, and if they can smile then we should all be able too.