Proleung Khmer

Thursday, January 27, 2005

KR Tribunal

What's the merit of staging a mocked trial of the KR with the majority of Khmer judges? Is it to find closure for the victims or enrich the players? Yes spending $56 million to bring only some old former KR leaders to trial will not give justice to the victims. If they want to show justice to the people, all the KR involved in the killings must stand trial including those in power today.


  • The Straits Times
    Sunday, January 30, 2005
    At long last, a time for healing
    By Verghese Mathews, For The Straits Times
    (The writer, a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian
    Studies, was Singapore's ambassador to Cambodia from June 2000 to July 2004
    when much of the negotiations for the KR Tribunal took place.)

    CAMBODIANS have not failed to notice that while the international community
    rightly poured out its heart and its resources to assist victims of the
    tsunami disaster, the same community has been largely blind, indifferent
    and uncaring when it comes to victims of the Cambodian genocide.

    This stark message jumps at you from the pages of a new book on Cambodia's
    quest for justice following the three years, eight months and 20 dark and
    terrifying days of the Khmer Rouge (KR).

    Authored by British journalist Tom Fawthrop and Australian academic Helen
    Jarvis, Getting Away With Genocide? Elusive Justice And Khmer Rouge
    Tribunal is a detailed insider account of the tortuous process of bringing
    the Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

    Fawthrop has covered the region for leading newspapers, including The
    Straits Times, for the last 25 years. Jarvis, previously with the
    University of New South Wales and documentation consultant for Yale
    University's Cambodian Genocide Programme, has, since 1999, been an adviser
    to the Cambodian Task Force on the KR Trials.

    The plaintive cry in the book is why, after a quarter of a century
    following the 1979 ouster of the Pol Pot regime by invading Vietnamese
    forces, none of the perpetrators has been brought to court to answer for
    the crimes which led to the death of an estimated 1.7 million people, a
    quarter of the then population of Cambodia.

    Fawthrop and Jarvis, both of whom I know personally, hold very strong views
    on this unacceptable delay. They point to the 'abysmal record' of the
    United Nations, the 'bitter record of neglect' of the international
    community and the 'dismal record of complicity' of certain countries with
    the KR, all of which the authors declare delayed justice.

    The writing in this book is opinionated, but this should not detract from
    its evident and immense scholarship and research.

    My quarrel with the authors is that in their almost evangelical criticism
    of the attitude of the UN and the international community in preventing the
    then newly installed Phnom Penh government from taking over Cambodia's seat
    in the UN, and in their disappointment that no western country so much as
    sent a fact-finding mission to Phnom Penh following the ouster of Pol Pot,
    they have failed to give adequate expression to the complex international
    and regional dynamism which drove the then bipolar world.

    There is mention, in passing, that for the United States the choice was
    simply between moral principles and international law and that the scales
    weighed in favour of the latter because it served US security interests.
    But the brevity of the comment suggests that it was included merely to give
    the appearance of a balanced criticism.

    That aside, the authors are right in their anger and disappointment that
    the KR Tribunal, when it finally takes place probably some time this year,
    will mark one of the longest struggles to bring genocide perpetrators to

    But it is a case of better late than never, though only six or seven are
    expected to appear in court. The legal text agreed between Cambodia and the
    UN states that the Tribunal is expected 'to bring to trial senior leaders
    of Democratic Kampuchea and those who were most responsible for the serious
    crimes and violations of Cambodian penal law, international humanitarian
    law and custom, and international conventions recognised by Cambodia that
    were committed during the period' from April 17, 1975 to Jan 6, 1979.

    Still, there is sufficient latitude in the law for justice to be finally
    served. The authors rightly point out that 'one of the great expectations'
    of the Cambodian people is that the Tribunal will serve not only to mete
    out punishment, but also help to provide answers that bring collective
    healing and closure.

    Unfortunately, some of the people who could have provided answers are gone.
    Pol Pot, Brother No. 1, died unceremoniously in April 1998. Son Sen, his
    defense minister with responsibility over the infamous Tuol Sleng Prison,
    is likewise dead.

    Among their senior colleagues still alive, most are suffering from some
    ailment or another.

    The fear is that these potential witnesses might die before the Tribunal.
    Of these, the most senior is Nuon Chea, Brother No. 2, believed to have
    been the most powerful official after Pol Pot. He surrendered to the
    government in 1998 and lives quietly in the former KR stronghold of Pailin.

    Also living freely and much more comfortably is Ieng Sary, well known
    internationally as the deputy prime minister and minister for foreign
    affairs. He defected to the Hun Sen government in 1996 and brought with him
    several thousand guerillas, effectively breaking whatever strength there
    was left in the KR.

    Then there is Khieu Samphan, who held several senior positions including
    that of PM and party president. He defected together with Nuon Chea in 1998
    and lives modestly in Pailin close to Nuon Chea's house.

    In prison are two notables who were captured by the security forces. One is
    Ta Mok, who in a leadership tussle in 1997 wrested control from Pol Pot but
    was forced to flee a year later when he was himself challenged. The other
    is the infamous Duch, who ran the secret police. Duch has just been taken
    from his cell to a government hospital for prostate surgery.

    Ta Mok and Duch have much to tell and some commentators believe that they
    will. We will have to wait to see if this will come to pass, hopefully not
    for too long.

    Fawthrop and Jarvis have contributed an extremely well-researched and
    fascinating book which is a welcome addition to the existing body of
    literature on contemporary Cambodia. With the date for the Tribunal getting
    closer, this work will prove to be a most useful resource.[End]

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:00 AM  

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