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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid