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Expert testimony on Khmer Rouge ideology continues

Expert witness Alexander Hinton appears before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Monday. ECCC
Expert witness Alexander Hinton appears before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Monday. ECCC

Expert testimony on Khmer Rouge ideology continues

Expert witness Alexander Hinton, building on previous testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, offered his views on how Khmer Rouge ideology contributed to the alleged genocide of the Vietnamese and Cham – key charges in the current Case 002/02 against ex-regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Hinton had previously argued that Democratic Kampuchea propaganda contributed to the “manufacturing of difference” and a dehumanisation process that, combined with other social, economic and political factors, made possible the perpetration of mass violence against targeted groups.

In the morning, prosecutor William Smith read multiple excerpts from a 1978 Pol Pot speech, asking after each excerpt whether or not it was likely to incite violence against ethnically Vietnamese civilians living in Cambodia.

In response to one statement by Pol Pot that “there is not one seed of them to be found” – a reference to the Yuon, a colloquial, often derogatory term for the Vietnamese – Hinton said, “very clearly it does so”.

“It is referring to the successful completion of a genocide that is taking place, so if you look at the numbers [in] the demographic reports, all the ethnic Vietnamese perished during this period, it’s what might be called a successful genocide in the sense that virtually every Vietnamese disappeared from Cambodia, as is being said in this statement,” he added.

Questioned by civil party lawyer Marie Giraud, Hinton testified on the effects of Communist Party of Kampuchea ideology on Cambodian society.

Family life, “as with Buddhism, as well as village life, these were potential threats to the new regime; they were also alternative sources of loyalty,” Hinton said.

The Khmer Rouge’s strategy, he continued, was to transfer those loyalties to the regime, “often embodied in the notion of Angkar” – a term meaning “the organisation” by which the regime referred to itself.

However, the Khmer Rouge “also empowered women through their ideology . . . I think women had much more of an opportunity to advance, although they did not go to the very top echelons,” he said.

According to Hinton, the CPK ideology also drew upon Buddhist belief structures, such as “Buddha’s way”, the downplaying of individuality and the promotion of selflessness and collective identity.

Prior to adjournment, however, Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe began to question Hinton’s research methodology and probe him on various points, such as whether the use of the word “Yuon” in a speech was necessarily racist. The questioning will continue today.

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