In the temple next door, orange-robed monks sit before a great crowd of people who have brought offerings of food and flowers. Here, in the small school office, a group of teachers huddles around Chhoeub Sre's desk.
"I want to hear Mr. Pol Pot speak at his trial," says Samnang Soksovann. "I want to know why, with all the power he had, he didn't stop it. Was someone behind him, making him do it? The Vietnamese? The Chinese?"
Soksovann - or Vann, as he is called - tells of the depressions that still hit him. He's 27, just old enough to remember horrors he witnessed as a 7-year-old. "In my sleep I always see an older man, maybe 65. They tie a cloth around his eyes, take him 500 feet into the forest. Then they just shoot him. I saw this, and many other things. Children shouldn't see such bad things. Pol Pot should not have allowed it."
Bright red blood which overs towns and plains
Of Kampuchea, our motherland,
Sublime blood of workers and peasants
Sublime blood of revolutionary men and women fighters!
The blood changing into unrelenting hatred
And resolute struggle,
On April 17, under the flag of the revolution,
Free from slavery!
The Khmer Rouge national anthem conveys the psychosis of the guerrilla leaders when they found themselves in total power in Cambodia, the fertile belly of Southeast Asia, on April 17, 1975.
"Although a million lives have been wasted, our Party does not feel sorry," a Vietnamese army newspaper quoted Pol Pot as saying two bloody years later, in August 1977. "Our Party needs to be strong."
Tears well up in Molly Ek's eyes. "I was screaming in the jungle for my mom," she says. "And my mom heard my voice. She came out through the trees. I hadn't seen her for months. But it had taken me all day to find her. The sun was setting. I had to get back before I was missed. I said, 'Mom, it's time to go back already.' She said, 'Can you stay another hour?' I said, 'No! They will discover I am gone.' "
Molly hasn't talked about this for a long time. We're sitting in the small receptionist's cubbyhole at the office where she works. She patches a customer through, reaches for a Kleenex tissue, and wipes her eyes.
"The forest was flooded that day. My skirt and shirt were ripped. I had to pin them together using thorns...." She was ten. She had run away from a Khmer Rouge labor camp, where hundreds of children, taken from their families, had to empty a lake measuring five miles around - by bucket. She suddenly remembers why. "We were emptying it to make a graveyard where they could bury us," Molly explains. "The Vietnamese came and saved us.
"Pol Pot should be - he should be dead! He shouldn't be alive. I felt so happy when I read he was captured. My parents say there shouldn't be any forgiving of those who did this to their own country."
Back at the temple school, it's midday. The teachers scatter onto 47th Street, still talking about how to stop the cycle of violence in Cambodia. Dat Nguyen, a Vietnamese who works for Cheong as a translator, suddenly lights up.
"The future?" he says. He puts his hand on the shoulders of Vann. "Here is the future. Young Cambodians - tens of thousands of them who have been educated in America, Canada, France, Australia, England. They have seen these governments run by people who can disagree without drawing knives. They have learned tolerance, to make judgments under the influence of democracy, not authoritarian one-man rule. The difference is in that precious ability to compromise. Liberal education shows them how to hammer out differences. These are the people who must judge Mr. Pol Pot and make sure his kind of government does not ever return."
Vann smiles and hands me a card with his e-mail address. "Communication. The opposite of isolation. I think that's how to stop the next Mr. Pol Pot."