T HE " highest levels" of the Royal government have been briefed about and
support the Cambodian Genocide Program (CGP), according to program manager Craig
Etcheson said he was extremely pleased with the level of
cooperation from the government, after just one month into a two-year research
Etcheson said people should realize both he and program director
Ben Kiernan were charged only with assembling a comprehensive database on the
history of the Pol Pot regime.
"We're not lawyers. We are here to
assemble facts, and it is up to others to interpret what the legal implication
of those facts might be," he said.
"We are gathering a body of
information (on the Pol Pot regime). Where it goes from there is not part of our
Etcheson said various bodies could act upon the research
when completed: the Royal government; the UN Security Council; or any
signatories of the Genocide Convention or other international
The Cambodian Genocide Justice Act was passed by US Congress
in April 1994, its aim to establish a criminal tribunal to prosecute those
accused of genocide.
Yale University was chosen to gather the facts on
events in what was then Democratic Kampuchea.
"In the first month we
wanted to brief key leaders in the Royal government exactly what the project was
about and make contacts with various NGOs and others. We are ahead of schedule,"
Much Khmer Rouge history was preserved in Tuol Sleng; more
still was in government archives, in the provinces "and even in peoples'
memories. We have to find a way to get access to it all," Etcheson
He said he was talking with lawyers about what constituted valid
evidence "so we don't collect information neither useful from a scholarly point
of view nor formation for legal purposes."
Recent Khmer Rouge defectors were unlikely to be a source of solid
information of the period from 1975 to 1979, he said.
Etcheson said the data collection would be "worldwide", but it was at yet far
too early to approach third party governments-for instance Vietnam, Thailand and
China-" though we intend to."
Etcheson said both he and Kiernan had published their opinions of Cambodia in
the past " but as good scientists we will employ methods that will insulate our
data collection from any personal opinions we might hold.
He conceded some people would look to the team to come up with damning
evidence, while others might expect the opposite. "We are only here to assemble
facts," he said.
"There isn't going to be a (genocide) tribunal at Yale," he said.
Etcheson said that there had been very little controversy in the United
Stqates since the lqaw was passed. "When people understand the aims and
objectives of the CGP they generally find it quite unobjectionable."
As for his personal feelings about being in Phnom Penh, Etcheson said: "I'm
happy enough to spend my time here. I love Cambodia."