News / Asia

Last Khmer Rouge to Defect Discuss Reconciliation

Northwest Cambodian town of Anlong Veng scene of new effort to help bring justice to region

Former Khmer Rouge district chief Im Chaem tells a reconciliation meeting of former cadres and the group's victims in Anlong Veng, Cambodia that the Khmer Rouge in the town want no further prosecutions of its members, 09 Apr 2010
Former Khmer Rouge district chief Im Chaem tells a reconciliation meeting of former cadres and the group's victims in Anlong Veng, Cambodia that the Khmer Rouge in the town want no further prosecutions of its members, 09 Apr 2010
Robert Carmichael

In 1998 the town of Anlong Veng in Cambodia's northwest became the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge to surrender to the government. Recently, the community was the scene of a new effort to help bring reconciliation and justice to the region.

On the outskirts of Anlong Veng sits the compound of the movement's last leader, Ta Mok, who died in jail awaiting trial four years ago. Ta Mok was a terrifying figure in Cambodia, but he was much admired here.

Recently, his home saw the first reconciliation meeting of former Khmer Rouge cadres and the group's victims.

Cambodian-American lawyer Daravuth Seng runs the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, which organized the meeting. He says the gathering aims to get Khmer Rouge members and their victims to talk to each other to promote understanding.

From that understanding, he says, reconciliation can come.

"When we are talking about reconciliation, it is reconciliation of a nation, and with the Cambodian context that must include a lot of the former perpetrators as well. And in one sense we're all victims in this process," Seng said.

From 1975 to 1979, the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, were responsible for the deaths of more than a million Cambodians - from disease, overwork or execution.

Around 150 former Khmer Rouge and some of their families gathered here as well as a small group of Buddhist monks. Several police attended, along with representatives from the international tribunal that is trying five Khmer Rouge leaders.

It is not long before the Khmer Rouge raise their main concern. They have heard the tribunal has a secret list of five more it wants to prosecute.

They say that violates a pledge they received when they surrendered in 1998 that there would be no losers from their defections.

An elderly woman addresses the tribunal staff.

Her name is Im Chaem, and she was a Khmer Rouge district chief in the late 1970s. Media reports have speculated she could be one of the five names on the list for prosecution.

Im Chaem wants the prosecutions to end with the five people already in custody, saying at one time the tribunal indicated only five were suspected but now it refers to another five. This made all the elderly people who were engaged in the war feel unsafe. She says they do not know when it will be their turn because they lived and served during that time. Even though Pol Pot died already, there might be another five and then five more and then 10?

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen says today is unusual since most Cambodians want to know why so few Khmer Rouge are being held accountable.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen speaking to former members of the ultra-Maoist group in Anlong Veng, Cambodia at the home of Ta Mok, a former senior leader believed to have been responsible for many of the regime's worst atrocities. The poster o
Khmer Rouge Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen speaking to former members of the ultra-Maoist group in Anlong Veng, Cambodia at the home of Ta Mok, a former senior leader believed to have been responsible for many of the regime's worst atrocities. The poster o

"Here it is 'Why do you want to prosecute more? It should be enough with the five, don't stir up everything after we have reintegrated.' So this is the major difference," Olsen said.

The trial of one Khmer Rouge leader ended last year and a verdict is expected in the coming months. Four others are in prison and are expected to face trial next year. Most of the group's senior leaders, however, died long before the tribunal began its work a few years ago.

By the end of the day, participants have discussed the meaning of reconciliation, justice and reintegration. There is broad agreement that the leaders currently in jail ought to be prosecuted, but no one else.

Participants are also tired of being referred to as "former Khmer Rouge." They say the term is equated with murder and oppression, which is unfair to their children. Far better, they say, that all are called Cambodian.

And they recognize their lives have improved since they defected. One attendee says families used to live in the mountains and were unable to share a meal together. Now their children have schooling, and people have access to health services and good roads.

In short, they want peace and more economic development for this impoverished part of Cambodia. It is time, they say, to look to the future.

Organizer Daravuth Seng says the day went better than he expected. Former Khmer Rouge turned up, engaged, and spoke.

They listened as a member of a victims' association told them that the Khmer Rouge - responsible for the deaths of perhaps 2 million Cambodians - killed his parents.

Seng says one or two people even showed remorse. A central purpose of the reconciliation effort is to grasp why they joined the Khmer Rouge.

"If we are to say never again, we really need to understand both sides, to understand the way these folks are perceiving the world," Seng said.

He says the day's event is not an end in itself, but the beginning of steps toward reconciliation.

You May Like

Photogallery US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

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