Friday, April 17, 1998

Khmer Rouge leader
cheats the hangman

THE death of Pol Pot, one of the bloodthirstiest despots of this bloody century, is frustrating to the Cambodians who suffered under his tyranny and wanted him to be tried and punished. In effect, he has cheated the hangman.

Meanwhile his Khmer Rouge movement of fanatical Communists appears to be dying with him. It's reported to be in the final stages of disintegration and no longer a threat to regain power in Cambodia.

Only last week the Clinton administration was reported to be making preparations to put Pol Pot on trial before an international war crimes tribunal in the event he was turned over to Thailand. Since a show trial last year conducted by his former followers, Pol Pot had been under house arrest in a camp near the Thai border.

A million or more people perished when the Khmer Rouge held sway in Cambodia from 1975-79. Ousted from power by Vietnam, it retreated to the jungles and resumed guerrilla warfare.

The regime installed by Hanoi was comprised of former Khmer Rouge cadres, led by Hun Sen. The same Hun Sen is running the government today after staging a coup last year against his former co-premier, Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Cambodia is now occupied in preparing for elections to repair the damage to democracy caused by the coup.

When the Khmer Rouge overthrew the Lon Nol regime in 1975, no one was prepared for the mass slaughter that followed. All educated persons were marked for execution. The cities were emptied. The idea appeared to be to purify Cambodia of all Western influences and return the nation to a simple agrarian life. The results were horrifying.

Pol Pot and his colleagues were genocidal fiends who turned their country into a charnel house. Although he is dead, other former Khmer Rouge leaders survive. They should be rooted out and tried for some of the worst crimes of the century.


Bishop messages

ANY court decree that a party in a case should inform the public about related matters is an invitation for propaganda. That is what Circuit Judge Kevin S.C. Chang got when he ordered that reasonable attempts be made to notify families of applicants to Kamehameha Schools that the state attorney general had subpoenaed the schools' entrance records.

Responses to the Bishop Estate's skewed notifications to the families should be interpreted with the skepticism due an opinion poll with loaded questions.

Attorney General Margery Bronster has subpoenaed the admission records of 1996 and 1997 to determine if any of the estate's trustees influenced the student selection process. Instances of favoritism could be central to the allegations of financial mismanagement and breaches of fiduciary duties by trustees being examined by Bronster's office.

Judge Chang should have instructed the state and the Bishop Estate to agree on the wording of the notice and its method of dissemination. In the absence of such a process, the Bishop Estate has purchased newspaper and radio messages informing parents that the subpoenas seek such information as test scores, grades, letters of recommendation, family income, welfare status and ethnic ancestry. The announcements ask the parents to mail their "objections" to the subpoenas to William McCorriston, the estate's attorney, for submission to the court.

Parents are led to believe that the subpoenas could invade their privacy, neglecting to mention that the court also has ordered that the identities of students and families cited in the records be kept confidential. Bronster's office has objected to the messages and subpoenaed radio stations' billing records; the estate has branded the subpoenas harassment.

The estate says the subpoenas threaten its right to free speech. Bronster responds that her intention is not to silence the trustees but to determine whether purchase of the messages is a proper expenditure of estate funds. Since the judge essentially sanctioned the "notification" process, Bronster's argument is weak.

That does not mean the announcements are not misleading. They are. McCorriston says he has received more than 300 written objections from parents to the investigation. That is hardly an overwhelming repudiation by Kamehameha's 10,000 families. Even those responses should be disregarded by the judge as the product of a flawed survey because the parents were victims of incomplete information.

Bishop Estate Archive

Deadly medicine

MEDICINE often does more harm than good. That's the message from a report by Dr. Bruce H. Pomeranz of the University of Toronto, who analyzed studies on bad reactions to prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Such reactions may kill more than 100,000 people and seriously injure another 2.1 million in a year in this country alone. And that doesn't include errors in prescriptions or drug abuse.

The study estimates that 76,000 to 137,000 people died in 1994 from properly prescribed medications. This would make adverse drug reactions the fourth to sixth leading cause of death.

Adverse drug reactions have been underestimated for years, medical researchers say. Hospitals and physicians seldom report such reactions, dismiss them as unavoidable or mistake them for symptoms of disease.

Does that mean people shouldn't take medicine? Of course not. But try to learn about possible side effects. Pomeranz commented, "What's needed is more awareness of the potential problems with taking some drugs. Before you take a medication you should know about its risk-benefit ratio."

That means asking questions, not blindly following the doctor's recommendations.

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