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Yale study flawed

The Editor,

The letter from the Cambodian scholars and specialists

disowning Dr Stephen Morris of Harvard University (Post, June 30-July 13)

strikes me as a somewhat curious example of academic arrogance, which diminishes

even further the credibility of this so-called "majority" of scholars and

students of Cambodians affairs. A few facts must be brought to your readers'

attention.

1) As recently as two months ago, two of the

signatories of the said statement personally told me that they felt that Ben

Kiernan "was not an impartial or balanced person to carry out the work of the

Cambodian Genocide Program". Why have they now signed the statement addressed to

the Phnom Penh Post, if they don't trust Kiernan?

2) This

so-called "majority of Cambodian scholars and specialists" includes names of

people who have strongly supported the Khmer Rouges' revolution and who

initially dismissed reports by refugees arriving at the Thai border escaping

from the massacres of Pol Pot's henchmen. After Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia,

they rapidly switched support to the pro-Vietnam Khmer Rouge regime established

in Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese army of occupation.

3) Leaving

aside David Chandler, Milton Osborne, Frederick Brown and Nayan Chanda, whose

work on Cambodia is respected in academic circles, the list includes mostly US

or Australian-based "specialists", some of them not well-known or unheard of in

the Cambodian studies field. Other French, English, Thai, Cambodian and German

scholars who have written extensively abut Cambodia and conducted serious

research and studies on Cambodia's past and contemporary history are arrogantly

dismissed as the "minority", because they do not agree with Kiernan's

appointment.

4) It has to be understood that the opposition

against Kiernan is based on solid evidence ie: his writings and activities for

the period 1975-1978, the period of the worst killings in Cambodia, when Kiernan

and his wife, Chantou Boua, went out of their way to defend Pol Pot and his mob

of genocidal maniacs. For instance, in letters addressed to the London Times on

August 10 and 11, 1977, Kiernan and his wife compared the conditions in a

Melbourne (Australia) factory unfavorably with the conditions of the peasants in

Pol Pot's "Democratic Kampuchea".

5) To suggest, as the

signatories of the above-mentioned letter do, that Kiernan's writings from

1975-1978 were a kind of teenager's mistakes, is to be rather economical with

the truth. Kiernan was and is a highly political animal and has been so for many

years. He was no naive innocent when he actively defended Pol Pot and associates

and was as contemptuous of any contrary view as it was possible to be. Whatever

Kiernan's subsequent acts of contrition since Pol Pot's fall, they still do not

make him a credible person to head an impartial investigation into Pol Pot's

atrocities.

6) I do not recall French or Italian supporters of

Hitler being appointed to head the investigation of Hitler's massacres in Europe

prior to the Nuremberg trials. The investigators and researchers were people of

impeccable credentials and totally impartial to carry out such an important

task. Yet most of the people appointed to work with Kiernan are people that

actively supported Pol Pot's rule in Cambodia and then switched to active and

vociferous support for the pro-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge regime established in

Cambodia by the Vietnamese army. What assurances do we have that they will

conduct an impartial investigation? For instance, none of these people, despite

being "scholars and specialists" on Cambodia have ever said a word about the

violations of human rights during the Vietnamese/PRK period in Cambodia or

during the SoC period prior to the May 1993 elections. Indeed, some of them went

as far as signing a letter to the Post, two weeks before the May 1993 elections

(Post, May 7-20, 1993) demanding the recognition by the international community

of the PRK/SoC regime "as the legal government of Cambodia" without

elections!

It is very unfortunate that the Cambodian Genocide program,

which was originally a good idea, has been totally discredited by the

appointment of Kiernan and his chums to conduct the investigation.

- Julio Jeldres, Victoria, Australia.

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