The article was so small—and so far back in the paper—that most people probably missed it. It was carried under the term “Addenda” on page 17 of the Washington Post, the day before Memorial Day. It revealed that a onetime leader of the Khmer Rouge, the genocidal Communist group that wiped out almost 2 million Cambodians, had made a visit to the United States. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the story gets worse: he was here to watch his son graduate from the U.S. military academy at West Point.
This display makes a mockery of the Clinton administration’s stated desire to bring war criminals to justice around the world. Hun Sen was the former Khmer Rouge official who came to the U.S. He is now the Prime Minister of Cambodia. In a story about his visit, the New York Times disclosed that his son’s education at West Point was paid for by the U.S. Government—that is, by you the American taxpayers. His son, Hun Manet, told reporters that he plans on getting a master’s degree in economics at New York University before returning to Cambodia to serve in the military. The Times quoted the U.S. State Department as saying his father’s visit to this country was personal, not official.
But can you imagine top Yugoslavian officials being allowed to visit the U.S. under any circumstances? This illustrates the double standard of the administration, as well as the press for not highlighting it. Just a few days before Hun Sen came to the U.S., President Clinton welcomed an indictment of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic that attempts to link him and other top officials to 340 murders. By contrast, Hun Sen was a leader of a movement that killed almost two million.
At one time, the Clinton Administration talked about creating a tribunal to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leaders. This went nowhere, in part because the Cambodian government and its Chinese backers didn’t support it. In fact, Hun Sen was one of those who said he wanted to see an international tribunal go after U.S. officials for bombing Cambodia during the Vietnam war. The U.S. had bombed Cambodia because Communist troops sought sanctuary there during the war.
Not only has there been a failure to prosecute Hun Sen and his former comrades, he has now been allowed to visit the U.S. to watch his son graduate from West Point. The Times reported that Congressman Ben Gilman, who attended the ceremony, had commented, “As a father, I guess he’s certainly entitled to be here, but we have to be concerned about his past.” Gilman couldn’t muster any outrage, only “concern.”
But thanks to C-SPAN and Brian Lamb, who were covering the patriotic Rolling Thunder demonstration in Washington over the Memorial Day weekend, we were given a taste of true outrage from Mark Smith, a former Vietnam POW who was held in Cambodia. Smith told Brian Lamb that Hun Sen’s presence at West Point was “a disgrace to an honorable military academy.” Whether personal or official, Smith regarded the visit as an insult to those Americans who served their country.