Monday, June 11, 2007

Reflection on Pol Pot and the Killing Fields of Cambodia

Reflection- Brian Moran

After researching the events that happened from 1975-1979 in Cambodia, it is clear that the power of the United Nations is very limited when it comes to dealing with the sovereignty of other countries. When a leader such as Pol Pot gains enough power and supporters, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot really protect the individual rights of the general public in that country. This is because the willingness of the United Nations to enforce the Declaration of Human Rights often stops short of overriding national sovereignty. During his time of power, Pol Pot banned all establishments like banks, hospitals, and schools, and 2 million people were killed because they did not fit the description of a perfect society the Communists were trying to achieve. Of course, the United Nations did not like or agree with the actions taking place in Cambodia, but they did not have enough international support to stop them.
In my opinion, the events of Cambodia and the Holocaust share a key similarity. The United Nations situation with Cambodia is comparable to that of the United States during World War II. The U.S.A. absolutely did not agree with anything the Germans were doing at the time, but the American public did not want to go overseas and become involved in another country. If U.S. government leaders had just disregarded the feelings of the entire country and gone over anyway, that would have been contradicting the very basis of democracy the government is built on. That is probably the way the United Nations felt too. They would have loved to stop what was happening in Cambodia, but without the support of the membership, diving in to that situation would be breaking the rules the U.N. set up in the first place.
To people like Pol Pot and Hitler, and to governments like those now in Sudan and North Korea, the principle of humanism does not even exist. Pol Pot killed millions of his own people for ridiculous reasons like they wore glasses, had an education, or were ethnically impure. To fully accept the idea that the individual matters, people need to realize the differences in each other, and embrace them. No two people are alike, and this just shows how crazy and impractical Pol Pot’s idea of racial cleansing and creating a population of “New People” was. There is no way to create a race of humans who are exactly the same, because everyone will always be different. Some many be similar, but never the identical. The Khmer Rouge rejected all principles of humanism and the UDoHR, and killed millions of innocent people because of it.
During my time working on this project, I was completely shocked and disgusted at the events that took place in Cambodia. I cannot really begin to understand what was going through the minds of Pol Pot and his followers at the time, and I feel nobody will. That kind of evil is rare, and it is easy to say the Khmer Rouge and the Nazi party go hand in hand as two of the worst and most destructive governments of all time. Both killed millions of their own people to try for racial cleansing, and nothing can justify their actions. I feel sorrow and remorse for those who were killed and tortured at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. They didn’t deserve to be treated in such barbaric ways, and the knowledge of their deaths will never be forgotten.
All in all, I can see now that the events of Cambodia were not only terrible, but also hard to stop. The United Nations was stuck without international support, and therefore was powerless to act quickly. As a result, I think many more people died than necessary, and maybe there is a flaw in the system. I feel that if such horrible events are taking place, on the scale of genocide, they need to be stopped whether the United Nations has international support or not. If something were to happen in the United States that was as horrible as the Holocaust and the Killing Fields of Cambodia, then the U.N. would have every right to step in and stop the atrocities occurring. Racial cleansing should never again be tolerated, and the United Nations should be the group to quickly enforce that around the world.

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