A SENIOR staffer at the United States research institute studying the crimes of the
Khmer Rouge has quit, citing unhappiness at the management style of his director,
the well-known Cambodia historian Ben Kiernan.
Craig Etcheson, manager of the Yale University-based Cambodia Genocide Program (CGP)
resigned effective Dec 31.
Kiernan, the CGP program director, said by telephone that the resignation would not
affect Yale project's activities. Contrary to earlier reports, only one other staffer
will be leaving, in a decision unrelated to Etcheson's departure, according to Kiernan.
"I would think we are going on as business as usual," Kiernan said by telephone
Dec 15, adding that some expansions to the project - including additions to the CGP
website - were in the works.
He declined to comment on the reason for Etcheson's departure.
Etcheson, in an email response to questions from the Post, said he could no longer
work with Kiernan's "command-driven management style".
Etcheson said that the CGP was an interdisciplinary international research project
involving professionals on several continents.
"When I designed and implemented the management structure for this project in
1995, I did so in the belief that the best way to ensure the effective integration
of such a far-flung team of disparate experts was to base it on decentralization,
extensive consultation, and a consensus approach to decision-making," Etcheson
said, adding that such an approach was also appropriate for the CGP's work "in
the cultural environment of Asia".
"Over the last year or so, however, the Program Director has made clear that
this management structure is not a good fit with his own style, and therefore he
has transformed it into a highly centralized, strictly hierarchical, command-driven
management structure, with himself as the sole holder of authority," Etcheson
He said he believed the lack of a consensus decision-making style at the CGP "results
in poor decisions and ineffective implementation of those decisions", and therefore
he had felt compelled to resign.
The CGP, founded in 1994 with a US State Department grant, is dedicated to collecting,
studying and publicizing information about the mass killings in Cambodia during the
1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime. Its Phnom Penh field office, the Documentation Center
of Cambodia, became an independent partner in 1997.
The CGP won a second State Department grant of $1 million for both offices for another
five years, with approximately $250,000 going to the Phnom Penh coffers. The remainder
will go to the Yale team for Khmer-language Internet information and the "core
research program", according to Kiernan.
The work of the two institutions could gain new relevance soon, following a November
UN resolution which condemned the KR for the first time. Experts say this could be
the first step towards an international trial of KR leaders.
Documentation Center director Youk Chhang said the Yale staff changes would have
no effect on the work being done, but added that it was "a shame" that
the shakeup was generating negative publicity for the project.