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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt nod for genocide research

Govt nod for genocide research

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.

Etcheson said he was extremely pleased with the level of

cooperation from the government, after just one month into a two-year research

program.

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

undertaking."

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

covenants.

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,"

Etcheson said.

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

said.

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."

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