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Facing Death in Cambodia Hardcover – March 30, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-0231120524 ISBN-10: 0231120524 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (March 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231120524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231120524
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,597,591 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

There is little in this account that has not been touched on elsewhere, but since justice has yet to be served on those Khmer Rouge responsible for the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians in the late 1970s, almost any recounting of the story carries its own justification. Maguire spent the past 10 years visiting Cambodia, seeking to understand how the tragedy evolved and why those responsible have not been punished. He visits the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, emblematic of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror, and he revisits the history of American involvement in Cambodia, arguing that American expansion of the Vietnam War helped precipitate the genocide. Maguire offers two primary explanations for judicial inaction: many Cambodians, as Buddhists, only wish to break the terrible cycle of violence and move on, and even today, many will not stand up to the Khmer Rouge for fear of their lives. Although the book seems oddly aimless, it nevertheless places in context the UN's efforts this year to establish an international tribunal on the Cambodian tragedy. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Maguire's interviews...are fascinating in their treatment of death and accountability...This is a gripping and well-written account.

(Library Journal)

Maguire is able to put a bit of a human face on all these events.

(the complete review 1900-01-00)

Places in context the UN's efforts this year to establish an international tribunal on the Cambodian tragedy.

(Booklist)

Concise, impassioned and at all times aware of the 'hallowness' of his words when compared to the survirors' own experiences, Maguire leaves readers mute.

(Ian Neubauer The Cambodia Daily)

Maguire's book is deftly written...The book is a sober, clear-eyed look at the questions surrounding the probable tribunal.

(Steve Hirsch Phnom Penh Post)

Facing Death in Cambodia is a scholarly, yet personal narrative of his own research.

(John Ryle Financial Times)

Maguire succeeds in illuminating the mindset of victims and perpetrators alike.

(D. Gordon Longmuir Pacific Affairs 1900-01-00)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
I read this before my trip to Cambodia and it was extremely insightful.
Aallen
The heroic Vann Nath, whose miraculous survival is powerfully and touchingly explained in the book, emerges as a beacon of clear sightedness.
Daniel Dennis
This is a clear and concise book about the horrendous regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979)and the aftermath.
Smallchief

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Dennis on February 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This remarkable book takes the reader deep inside the minds of a culture so hard to penetrate that I am returning this year to Cambodia just to attempt to understand the obvious - here is a country in a state of denial. "Facing Death in Cambodia" very effectively analyses Cambodia's culture of compliance, a nation meek to authority, and seemingly paralyzed by a recent past so convulsive that to even think about it is an invitation to "bad karma" - even among survivors and the unindicted killers of their children who sometimes share the same street. Mr Maguire excells at the job of rendering the 75-79 story in human terms. His portraits of the familiar figures like the photographer of those shattering Tuol Slong ID pictures are very important to our understanding of what sort of mental gymnastics many at the heart of the genocide are capable of. The heroic Vann Nath, whose miraculous survival is powerfully and touchingly explained in the book, emerges as a beacon of clear sightedness.Yet even here there is paradox - the survivor is eager to greet the photographer almost as an old friend. The author's tenacious search for the mind set and value system of the killers, and how D.K.'s perverted ideology can be effortlessly justified in Cambodia's "culture of impunity", make for provocative reading. I was particularly impressed by the author's descriptions of lurking violence. The weserner's stereotypes of the smiling Khmer do not long survive exposure to present reality. When Mr. Maguire takes you through the marketplaces and cafes of Phnom Penh, don't expect a comfortable ride. In one shattering passage,we are told how quickly peasant vengeance in the street over seeming trifles turns to horror in a blink. Overall, this book is one of the most important documents of Cambodia's modern history. Mr Maguire has no illusions that this beautiful, tormented country's battle to start over is going to be over soon. Here is a writer of compassion and power, and his book is an excellent one.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on January 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a clear and concise book about the horrendous regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979)and the aftermath. The author asks the question: why haven't leaders of the Khmer Rouge been prosecuted for the mass murder they perpetrated on their own people. He finds a partial answer by looking at international politics and the machinations of Cambodian leaders, the UN, and the US and everyone's lack of priority in seeking justice in Cambodia.

The author, along the way, adds his personal experiences and interesting observations about Phnom Penh and Cambodia in the 1990s and up until 2003. He interviews a large number of Cambodians, including guards and survivors, about the goings on at the notorious S-21 prison. As many as twenty thousand entered the prison; fewer than a dozen survived. There are photos of some of the murdered and the survivors and several historic photos of Khmer Rouge soldiers. The author delves into the mentality of the mass murderers and present day Cambodians who still suffer the trauma of that horrific era.

Chapter two in this book is one of the best brief descriptions of the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia and its consequences that I have read. All in all the book is a readable introduction to the sordid history of the Khmer Rouge and the half-hearted international efforts to cope with mass murder and its perpetrators.

Smallchief
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on May 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've often wondered about the genocide in Cambodia. The amount of material available on the Holocaust is emmense. We basically went to war to stop the "Ethnic Clensing" in the Balkans. But in Cambodia, almost noting, even while it was going on it seemed to be largely ignored. The famous pictures of the piles of skulls seemed to have no effect.

When this was happening we had just ended our participation in the Viet Nam war. I asked a Viet Nam protester why they weren't protesting what was happening there, why are we building a Holocaust museum when something of almost horror was happening in Cambodia. There was no answer.

For a time I thought that it might be an issue of race/color. The Jews were white, the Cambodian brown. Then the happenings in Rawanda got a fair amount of press coverage. And I can only conclude that it was just a matter of time. Viet Nam took all the energy the protestors had, perhaps combined with such a contempt/hatred for our own government that they couldn't see the evil in the Khmer Rouge. Maybe it was the left's "love" for communism that made them blind.

Peter Maguire's book puts a personal and human face on this genocide. He has talked to the people all over Cambodia, he has analyzed the international response and concluded that "international law, human rights, and international criminal courts are little more than sonorous fictions without political will."

There is no political will to even think much about Cambodia, not while it was happening, not now.
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More About the Author

Peter Maguire is the author of Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, Law and War, and Facing Death in Cambodia.

Peter is a historian and former war-crimes investigator whose writings have been published in the International Herald Tribune, New York Times, The Independent, Newsday, and Boston Globe. He has taught law and war theory at Columbia University and Bard College.

Watch interviews and videos with Peter:

Peter speaks about his book, Facing Death in Cambodia on CSPAN Book TV: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/FacingD

The Origins of the Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal: http://vimeo.com/28287579

Interview with Radio Australia: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/connect-asia/the-therapeutic-legalism-of-cambodias-war-crimes-tribunal/1105808

Interview from the film "Brother Number One": http://brothernumberone.co.nz/cambodianhistory

Interview with France 24: http://www.france24.com/en/20090217-landmark-khmer-rouge-trial-continues-

Interview on the origins of Mixed Martial Arts: http://archive.org/details/NoHoldsBarredPeterMaguireAndJohnPerrettiOnTheRealOriginOfMixed

Article about John Danaher: The Professor is The Madman: http://www.fightmagazine.com/mma-magazine/the-professor-is-the-madman-5714/

Article about Strategic Legalism as defined in Peter's book, Law and War: An American Story: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/strategic-legalism

2001 Interview about Peter's book Law and War: An American Story: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/law-and-war-century-hypocrisy-and-ambivalence

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