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Truth, justice, reconciliation, peace: the KR 20 years after

Summary of Research Results

This summary presents the interim results of an English-language survey administered

between December 27, 1999 and February 8, 2000, as well as generalizations based

on discussion groups held primarily in Phnom Penh. The survey form consisted of 6

pages, with 59 questions. 48 responses have been received to date. [Results are shown

in brackets.]

Due to the sensitive nature of the topic, all participants in the study participated

anonymously. Participation was voluntary and done primarily through NGOs working

in development, human rights and reconciliation.

Only a small number of organizations participated.

The study was very limited and not representative of the general population. Survey

forms were not written for or given to known former KR.

Survey Participant Summary

Participants were primarily Buddhist (46 Buddhist, one Cham and two Christian) and

male (36 men, 12 women).

The group included 29 working with NGOs or International Organizations, one factory

worker, one farmer, four government officials, six students, two teachers and three

unknown/other. Ten participants are living in Phnom Penh, six in Kampot and 32 in

Battambang (note: the majority of the participants in the discussion groups were

from Phnom Penh and Kampot - see article for overall results).

The majority were educated (18 university, 18 upper secondary school and 11 lower

secondary school). Their ages ranged from 16-61: one 16; five 20-24; eight 25-30;

eight 31-35; eight 36-40; eight 41-45; seven 46-50 and three 51--61. All but one

were in Cambodia during the KR regime.

The survey form included several long and complicated questions, and the responses

showed that not all respondents understood the questions - these results are not

at all conclusive.

Interim Survey Results

Cambodians who participated in this study said they want:

  • Preferably an internationally controlled, but at least internationally sanctioned

    tribunal [42/46]. Many say without international participation a trial is not worth

    doing at all: there is no trust in government or courts to try the former KR leaders.

  • To know the truth about what the KR did [39/48], why they did it [42/48], and

    who else was involved. 30/48 think others are responsible for the KR regime, including

    China, Vietnam, King Sihanouk, and some members of the current government.

  • A public tribunal, (or a tribunal and a truth commission).
  • 20/47 wanted only the top political and military leaders to be prosecuted. Another

    20/47 wanted at least the senior leaders down to the regional level to be prosecuted.

    Analysis of these responses was particularly complicated due to multiple choices

    and answers.

The participants wanted the tribunal:

  • To decrease impunity in today's society/to improve the government by showing

    a good example of good justice.

  • To show the world what happened, so such a tragedy won't happen again.
  • To clarify the historical record, especially for the next generation.
  • To bring justice for the victims who died and for those who are still living.
  • To bring healing to Cambodian society.
  • To include a clear, heartfelt explanation (confession) [39/48] and apology [29/48]

    from those responsible for the KR regime. Fewer [17/47] felt the KR should ask for

    forgiveness. 10/46 wanted vengeance.

Cambodians who participated in this study think:

  • A trial should happen: immediately [11/48], as soon as possible [27/48], when

    the evidence is sufficient [2/48], although some said it should wait a few years

    [5/48].

  • A trial should be public [47/47] and broadcast widely [48/48].
  • The courts are not fair [41/48].
  • The police are not fair [38/48].
  • Witnesses for defense and prosecution as well as court staff will need protection

    [42/46].

  • That the KR can not become a fighting force again [ 31/48], although this depends

    on the political will of former KR leaders, the government and neighboring countries.

Cambodians who participated in this study feel:

  • They have suffered greatly under the KR, including many KR themselves - 30/48

    have nightmares or dreams.

  • They know many people who are still suffering severely (mentally or physically)

    or have many bad memories from their experiences under the KR [37/48].

  • Worse when they think [33/43] or talk [31/43] about their times under the Khmer

    Rouge.

  • Differently about punishment - some want the guilty sent to prison [31/48], some

    want house arrest [7/48], or reparations [25/48], some want them to be prevented

    from joining the government or holding public office [15/48] and some want them to

    be exiled [3/48].

  • Former Khmer Rouge leaders should not be given titles or allowed to live in fancy

    houses.

  • 21/45 had heard or heard about the apologies made by Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea

    early in 1999. 23 didn't believe the apology, eight believed them, while 17 didn't

    know or did not reply. 15 felt glad they had apologized, but couldn't forgive them,

    16 felt angry, 11 felt unhappy, one had no feeling, and one felt speechless. Only

    one person felt glad and could forgive them. In discussion groups a lot of anger

    was expressed about this apology as it was felt that it was not enough, nor heartfelt.

  • Safer at home [23/48] and at work, but less safe when traveling in the provinces

    [6/48], or home areas at night.

  • Half would testify at a trial of the KR [24/48].

Cambodians who participated in this study do not know:

  • What a truth commission is.
  • What to do with their anger when they think about their experiences under the

    KR.

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