News / Asia

Cambodia Considering Law Outlawing Denial of Khmer Rouge-Era Crimes

Cambodia's main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Vice President Kem Sokha, center, waves during a protest rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 20, 2013.
Cambodia's main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Vice President Kem Sokha, center, waves during a protest rally in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 20, 2013.
Robert Carmichael
On Friday, Cambodia’s parliament will debate a controversial draft law that will punish people who seek to downplay the crimes of the Khmer Rouge era. The government said the law is necessary; critics disagree and said it is politically self-serving.
 
The origins of the draft law can be found in comments made by Kem Sokha, the deputy leader of the opposition.

In a recording released by the government last month, Kem Sokha can be heard purportedly describing the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 torture and execution center as Vietnamese-inspired propaganda.

Kem Sokha said the government has manipulated his words. The government said it did not.

Whatever the truth, the Draft Law on the Denial of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea will be presented to parliament on Friday.

Contents

Under its provisions, those found guilty face up to two years in jail. Legal entities - which commentators say can include political parties - could be liable for the conduct of their members.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy believes the authorities likely edited Kem Sokha's remarks to try to make him look bad as they have done with his public comments in the past.  But, speaking via Skype Wednesday to the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Rainsy said that does not mean he is opposed to the law against denying Khmer Rouge-era crimes.
 
"I think Mr. Kem Sokha can be a victim of the same manipulation.  And, about the law to punish those who are accused of denial of genocide, I fully, I fully support," Rainsy said.
 
Elections

Others are less enthusiastic and note the timing of the draft law: Cambodians go to the polls next month.

Ou Virak, the president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the purpose of the law has been made clear by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I’ve listened to his long speeches on this and he said many, many times that he wants this law to basically target one person - and that is Kem Sokha," Ou Virak noted. "And it’s very, very political. It has nothing to do with denial of atrocities and the crimes that took place under the Khmer Rouge. It has everything to do with politics before the election.”

Ou Virak predicts that the law will create fear and self-censorship among ordinary Cambodians, and hamper fledgling reconciliation efforts.

The government said it will not chill debate and insists that people who deny such crimes must be punished to prevent the country sliding into chaos.

Criticism

Others find that unconvincing. Youk Chhang is the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the country’s leading research organization on Khmer Rouge-era crimes. He said that over nearly two decades of research. “I have not met a person or a survivor that denied that the Khmer Rouge committed horrible crimes," he said. "Everybody believed this including the Khmer Rouge themselves.”

Youk Chhang worries the law will limit the need to debate freely and learn the truth behind the Khmer Rouge period - particularly among the young who did not experience it firsthand.

He also takes issue with the government’s line that Cambodians need not fear the law simply because some European nations have legislation that outlaws genocide denial.

Youk Chhang said a similar law in Rwanda, which experienced genocide in 1994, has shown the potential for abuse: in Rwanda’s case, journalists, politicians and academics have been jailed.

“The law does not heal, you know. The law actually prosecutes and compensates. But now we think about reconcile a society that’s been broken for over 34 years. So when you think about reconcile, when you think about development, when you think about a better Cambodia, I think that education and free speech should be embraced,” Youk Chhang said.

But with the ruling party controlling parliament and with Hun Sen pushing for the law’s adoption, it is likely that it will soon be on the books.

Daniel Schearf contributed to this report from Bangkok

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Transferred to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

Assistant director says that clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, United States, Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid