An article in today's edition of the Post describes how many of Cambodia's ethnic minorities are being left out of the tribunal process. Though such groups were often targeted under DK, because many ethnic minorities live in far-flung areas of the country, they don't have the resources to travel to the ECCC.
"I want to see the faces of those KR leaders directly when they are on trial," Teal Perng, of the Kreung community, told the Post. "But we do not have the money to travel to Phnom Penh to visit the court."
During the hearings I have already attended at the ECCC, I have seen several busloads of Khmer Rouge survivors brought in to watch proceedings. This is a good effort, and it should be expanded.
The court needs to make transportation of KR survivors -- as well as their children and grandchildren -- to the ECCC compound one of its top priorities. During Ieng Thirith's recent appeal before the court, the modest public viewing gallery was half-empty much of the time.
I have trouble believing this is because there is no interest. More likely, many survivors like Perng simply lack the means and money to get to the court. Even for those who live in Phnom Penh, a trip to the ECCC is inconvenient. The drive takes at least 40 minutes by car (if they have access to a car), there are currently no public dining facilities at the court, and attending a hearing basically means taking an entire day off work. For many, the idea of making the journey alone from Ratanakkiri must seem implausible.
But it shouldn't be. Travel by bus is cheap in Cambodia and even overnight lodging in Phnom Penh can be reasonably priced. At this point, I would guess the main challenges to increasing public access involve coordination and personnel. After all, someone must travel to the provinces and organize the groups to be transported.
Therefore, more positions of this nature should be created and funded. As I've mentioned before, if the tribunal goes forward with minimal public involvement, it will fail the people it is meant to serve.
*Pictured above: a Cham observer is interviewed during a break from Ieng Thirith's recent hearing. At left: this Khmer Rouge survivor was transported to the ECCC on a bus coordinated by the Documentation Center of Cambodia