Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Respect, please

Respect, please

Respect, please

In response to the letter, "KR trial standards" by Kenneth Roth of Human

Rights Watch in the Nov 26 - Dec 9, 1999 issue, I have to comment on two points:

"These are crimes of universal jurisdiction," and "The international

community has a legitimate interest to intervene."

As a Khmer Canadian who escaped the Khmer Rouge rule, I see that cultural misunderstanding

has played a major part in the early development of the Khmer Rouge trial. Herodotus

(484-425 B.C.) captured an essential insight when he wrote "For if one were

to offer men to choose out of all the customs in the world such as seemed to them

the best, they would examine the whole number, and end by preferring their own; so

convinced are they that their own usages far surpass those of all others"

This has certainly enticed me to believe that Mr. Roth's statement on the two points

mentioned above is rather invalid, to some extent, in the eyes of some of the Khmer

people.

The disagreement over the trial has involved not just behavioral differences but

the perceptions of cultural phenomena. Culture is so powerful in the way it shapes

individuals' perceptions that understanding the way of life in other societies depends

on gaining insight into what might be called the inner cultural logic.

Naturally, western civilization has ranked highest on the scale because the standard

for judging was based on western values; whereas, Khmer cultural values have not

been applied, and have suffered for most of this century.

As much as I support the International Community or United Nations involvement in

the process, judicially, I still believe that the Khmer people should have more than

an equal say, and should be respected if they choose the American proposal.

After all, Khmers are the victims of this crime which involved perpetrators who are

also Khmers (the KR). In a formal criminal justice system, this crime might have

been called a crime of murder if nothing else, which would have suited for the criminal

justice system of the state involved to decide the case, in whatever standards. Obviously,

this view might have led some of the Khmer people to believe that they, too, have

an absolute legitimacy to be responsible, one way or the other.

So, where is the common ground?

Chansokhy Anhaouy, Vancouver, Canada

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,