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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Freedom of speech?

Freedom of speech?

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



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