Autopsy of a Cambodian Election

Foreign Affairs, September/October 2015

Even Hun Sen’s critics cannot escape his conception of power: At the same time that Sam Rainsy and the opposition CNRP have pressed for multiparty democracy, liberalism, and human rights, they have adopted some of the prime minister's ways. 

Democratic contestation in Cambodia remains, at bottom, a struggle for power — and that serves Hun Sen above all.

The Genocide That Wasn't

The New York Review of Books, August 25, 2014

August 7 was supposed to be judgment day for the last two leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. But neither Nuon Chea nor Khieu Samphan was convicted of genocide then.

And the U.N.-backed tribunal judging them will never even consider that charge in connection with the vast majority of the Khmer Rouge's victims, the Khmer people. 


A Khmer Rouge Goodbye

The New York Review of Books, April 18, 2013 

And so it was in this tidy little town on Cambodia’s border with Thailand that on March 21, an auspicious seven days after his death, the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister received his last rites.

The cremation was also a reunion for Khmer Rouge die-hards: Plain, pathetic, or powerful, here gathered the bodyguards and the messengers, the cooks and the photographers, the translators and the generals who had served Pol Pot.

Necessary Scapegoats: The Making of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

The New York Review of Books, July 23, 2012

Although the Khmer Rouge tribunal has the formal trappings of an independent criminal court, it is best understood as the judicial chapter in the awkward, and often dirty, story of political deals that Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Khmer Rouge, the United Nations, and major states have been making for almost 40 years.

This piece prompted a response from the Cambodian foreign ministry, to which I replied. The Cambodian foreign minister, Hor Nam Hong, wrote back.


Cambodia’s Perfect War Criminal

The New York Review of Books, October 25, 2010

It is unclear how much the trial of Duch, the Khmer Rouge’s emblematic torturer, will have advanced the long-delayed efforts to bring the regime to justice, not least because Duch himself seems to have come out of the experience less repentant than he was when it began. 

Against the Law

The National, August 14, 2009

The French lawyer Jacques Vergès — defender of the indefensible: Algerian terrorists, African dictators, serial killers, Nazi torturers, the Khmer Rouge — may be a megalomaniac who is fascinated with the peculiar integrity of fanatics, but he’s also a committed polemicist with a deep compassion for political underdogs.


The Great Oil Race

Democracy, August, 2007

How African states play Chinese and Indian investors in this rematch of the old exploitation game will largely determine whether this second African oil era is a boon -- with the potential for broad-based social and economic improvement — or another bust.

France and its Muslims

Foreign Affairs, October 9, 2006

If the good news about France’s Muslims is that they are already fairly well integrated and show every disposition to be fully so, the bad news is that French elites seem unwilling or unable to help.


Out of Beijing

The New Republic, November 15, 2004

China's hunt for oil resources in Africa isn't a direct threat to U.S. energy security, but it doesn't bode well for Washington's other interests there: democracy promotion, good governance and human rights.

Chennai Dispatch: SOL

The New Republic, April 26, 2004

While the BJP in India offers a moderate face to its key constituencies, it is quietly promoting a bigoted law banning religious conversions that affects voters it knows it cannot win over, like the dalits.


An Odd Bird

Legal Affairs, September, 2002

Because art eludes definitions and law needs to impose them, the law on art often seems to be running after its subject. The 1927 case Brancusi v. United States was a small step forward in that losing chase. It was a victory for Constantin Brancusi, rather than modern art: his abstract sculpture Bird in Space qualified as artistic only because it happened to be to the judge's liking.