On Wednesday, 14 November 2007, the Center for Social Development and the German
Development Service held a national conference at Hotel Le Royal for 120 provincial
villagers who had attended CSD public forums during this past year and Phnom Penh
guests, including the presence of US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, Singapore DCM William
Chik, embassy representatives of Germany, Japan, Britain, Vietnam, South Korea, France,
USAID, senior officials of the ECCC, five provincial governors and deputy governors,
members of Parliament, leaders of civil society, monks, university students, national
and international press. The two co-investigating judges had to cancel their presence
on the panel due to the recent arrests of Mr. and Mrs. IENG Sary and Thirith (whose
attorney is CSD's very own, legal unit head, Mr. Ang Udom). The following is my opening
Thank you, lauk Khuon Sethisak, for that amazing rendition of our national anthem.
Sethisak has performed at all our fora throughout this year.
Good morning. My deepest respects to the venerable monks, speakers and panelists
- HE Sean Visoth, German Ambassador Frank Mann, Japanese Ambassador Katsuhiro Shinohara,
ADHOC's President Thun Saray and DED country director Mr. Wolfang Mollers, excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen.
I want to say a special "good morning" to the provincial representatives
who have traveled very far to attend this conference - from Siem Reap, Mondolkiri,
Svay Rieng, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kep, Kampot and Battambang - a very special
welcome to you all.
Welcome to the National Conference on "Justice & Reconciliation".
Today, we want to give you an overview of the work we have done to engage provincial
villagers across Cambodia throughout this year on issues of justice, peace and reconciliation
in light of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and our collective history. We also want to
give you an idea of the lessons learned, and of the sentiments of average Cambodians,
the donors and officials of the ECCC.
This year, CSD conducted six fora, involving eight provinces/municipality and 40
districts. This amounted to a total of 857 villagers, not including our guests here
from Phnom Penh.
Prior to each forum, CSD facilitated ground preparation visits and brought 291 villagers
to Phnom Penh to tour the ECCC, Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek.
Throughout this time, we witnessed your passion and continued suffering, your demand
for genuine justice and a just peace, and your curiosity regarding the ECCC and the
We also heard continued calls for clarity on the larger Khmer Rouge history in light
of your experiences under the regime. There were recurring themes in your questions.
"Why did this happen and why didn't anyone come to help us?"
"Why did Khmer kill Khmer?"
"Who is behind all of this? Were there foreign powers involved?"
"Why are you charging only the senior leaders, and not others with blood on
"Why do we even need a fair trial process if we already know who is guilty?"
"Why do we need to spend so much time gathering evidence if we all have proof
and many of us were witnesses to the atrocities that were committed?
But we have also heard voices expressing hope for the future. Many have said:
"Had we been educated of what was going on, we might not have made these mistakes."
"Given our tragic legacy, we must educate our youth to learn from the horrors
of our past in order to never repeat it."
Many want reconciliation and peace, both spiritually and materially. Despite the
anger and grief that is still fresh nearly three decades after the fact, villagers
at our forums have said:
"This should not happen again."
"Show us that we can have justice for the future, not just as a remedy for the
"Show us that Cambodia can move ahead and we can build a healthy society."
The principal goal of CSD public fora is to provide a secure space for conversations
on these issues. This dialogue is long overdue, but it is also highly sensitive and
emotional. So the goal is to broaden the conversational space and to put down the
burden of the past, which many have carried silently for too long. In that sense,
ours is an informal truth and reconciliation commission.
CSD puts a lot of energy and attention into creating a safe environment to facilitate
that dialogue. We have a counseling unit, under the supervision of DED psychotherapist,
Mr. Matthias Witzel.
CSD focuses on instilling quality of information and presentation to engage all five
senses in this process of learning. We are more concerned about deep, meaningful
engagement. This is because we are fully aware that provincial participants are ambassadors
who take what they learn back to their families and neighbors, further raising awareness
and hope for justice and peace in Cambodia.
This Phnom Penh conference marks the first of a 3-year effort to engage Cambodians
across the provinces on "Justice & National Reconciliation".
CSD fora are funded by DED and Diakonia/SIDA, whose partnership has allowed us to
engage you this past year, and in the coming years. Thank you, DED and Diakonia.
Once again, thank you all for coming, and may these forums become more and more a
part of our national discourse and reconciliation process.
Theary C. SENG
To read past CSD Voice of Justice articles, please visit www.csdcambodia.org, Voice
of Justice Program.