I see many flaws in the Jan 27 public forum on "National Reconciliation and
the Khmer Rouge" as reported in the Post, Feb 4-17, 2000.
The Jan 27 forum of the Center for Social Development (CSD) hoped to bring genocide
victims and KR perpetrators "a bit closer" to national reconciliation.
The forum survey shows 68 of 106 participants believe a trial would bring about real
national reconciliation, while Chea Vannath of CSD still maintains, "A trial
will only solve the problem on the surface."
Vannath went on to stress that the forum would be a place for the exchange of ideas.
This was echoed by Ieng Vuth, Pailin's First Deputy Governor: "At least everybody
can express their opinion. At the same time, we have a chance to listen to others.
On the basis of that, we can find a solution." I doubt this is so.
First, the forum was located close to a former KR stronghold and close to where many
former Khmer Rouge members are still living. For security reasons, not all participants
would dare to speak out freely.
Second, the tone of the speeches failed to reveal the participants' decision due
to the random speech time and participant selection. During the forum, the speech
tone turned more against the trial, while the secret ballot showed the opposite.
Giving time for speech to random participants allowed more time for educated KR cadres
to jump in and lecture the rest. Even though non-KR-educated participants would come
up and speak, the voice from those who were worried about security and not expressive
could be lost. This lost voice would freely appear in the ballot. That is why the
pro-trial voice is bigger in the secret ballot. If the speech is aired and the secret
ballot is not, then the public mood for the trial will be distorted by the forum.
Everyone can see that school or course admission requires an entry exam or some sort
of screening to allocate learners by group levels so that the learning/teaching process
is productive. If a KR forum aims to educate people about national reconciliation,
it would have to allocate time and participants equally in a fair environment.
I believe this is best done by a fair trial, where victims and possible perpetrators
can always freely and equally express their opinions, where they both are given equal
opportunity to seek information and support for their argument, and where there are
independent, competent, neutral judges and jurors.
Sorya Sim, Phnom Penh