Murder Trial Brings Forgving Spirit to Cambodia

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CWN.org  - In Cambodia, a trial is now underway that promises to expose in detail some of the worst crimes of the 20th century.

The Khmer Rouge killed about 2 million people in Cambodia in the 1970s.

Now, the chief killer for that regime is on trial for his crimes, but his story could help bring healing to the nation.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Deuch, is one of the Khmer Rouge's most ruthless killers. He commanded the notorious Tuol Sleng prison for three years.

More than 12,000 men,women and children perished here, many after prolonged torture. Deuch's signature is on many of the death orders.

"He has the key to unlock the secrets of the Khmer Rouge which was a highly secretive organization," photographer and author Nic Dunlap said. "Still to this day nobody is completely certain how the orders for the killings were carried out, who gave them, how they were transmitted and how they were interpreted."

A Crucial Link

Cambodians believe Deuch is a crucial link if the truth about the past is to be revealed. He's the only one of the five former Khmer Rouge leaders on trial who has admitted to his crimes.

Duech's is testimony could convict those who ordered the killings, and bring justice for their victims.

"He has the ability to shed light on vast areas that have been in the darkness for scholars, and journalists and historians for decades," Dunlap added.

Christians say he may also help his nation understand true forgiveness.

From Killer to Christian

In 1993, while in hiding and living under an assumed identity, Deuch became a Christian.

Christopher Lapel, a Cambodian-American pastor, helped lead him to Christ.

"He came to me and he said 'Pastor Christopher, I'm a sinner and I don't think my brothers and sisters around me can forgive me because my sins are so deep."' he recalled.

Today, Deuch acknowledges that he committed horrendous acts, and has apologized for the killings.

Ready to Testify

Last year he went back to the prison where so many suffered at his hands.

"He came here, he asked permission to pray to those victims who died as well and we could see that his eyes were very emotional," a tribunal media officer said.

Deuch knows he must pay for his crimes and he's ready to tell all at trial.

"They can have my body," he once said. "Jesus has my soul."

"He's very strong in faith and he's ready to testify," Pasor Lapel said. "He would like to tell the truth, the whole truth, for what he done to his people."

Others Follow

Deuch's story is not unusual.

Many former Khmer Rouge soldiers have come to Christ in recent years.

Pailin, in the northwest, used to be a Khmer Rouge stronghold. Now there are several Christian churches in the region.

Here, more than 200 former Khmer Rouge soldiers are following Christ.

Forgiving and Forgetting

And some of the victims of the genocide are also choosing the path of forgiveness.

"I was having a lot of anger towards the Pol Pot regime and those who committed crimes during those times and as soon as I accepted the Lord and after I learned from the word of God, the Lord enabled me to forgive and forget and go on with my life," said San Than Keo.

The 32-year-old was eight when the Khmer Rouge forced his family of 12 from their rural village home.

Keo later learned his mother and father were murdered and seven of his brothers and sisters were also killed.

He says he spent many nights weeping and crying, until a music teacher led him to Christ in 1990. Now he sings as he travels along a divine road to forgiveness. His pastor, Setan Lee, prays other Cambodians will join him.

"Only through the power of God, the power of forgiveness can help us and enable us to forgive," Lee said. "My hope for the future is that we will turn this land of the killing fields into the living fields."

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