It was October 27, 2007. I was putting the finishing touches to the mock-up of my book ‘In Whose Name?’ on the aftermath of 9/11 when all of a sudden, she appears on the screen of my computer. The caption describes her as an “unidentified prisoner”. Surrounded by commercials, she accompanies a New York Times article quoting the Tuol Sleng death camp photographer, who shot the portrait of each Khmer Rouge prisoner on his arrival, before his inevitable execution.
She is a very young girl, almost a child. What crime did she commit to end up here? She looks at the lens without betraying any emotion; her expression is neutral. She does not blame. We alone know that she is going to die, probably murdered by the blow of a hammer on the skull. We alone feel accused. Was she tortured before this fatal blow? Was she forced to sign a confession, like all adult prisoners?
How could a society of Buddhist compassion accept the massacre or death by starvation of a quarter of its population, a true self-genocide? For if the Khmer Rouge leaders were Marxist intellectuals educated at the Sorbonne, their cadres, responsible for the abuses, were not. Were they not Buddhists? In recent weeks, I was wondering what new project I should undertake after this long and new dive in Islam and Islamism.
On that day…