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Smoking out Heder

Smoking out Heder

The Editor,

I am exceedingly gratified to have smoked out Stephen Heder as a closet supporter

of Ben Kiernan as director of the Cambodian Genocide Program. Some activists in the

Asian Studies milieu who otherwise admire Heder were troubled that his refusal to

sign the petition for Kiernan meant rejection of Kiernan and agreement with Stephen

Morris. We are all relieved that this was not the case, and each may speculate about

Heder's motive in refusing. Perhaps he felt, as I also did, that the language of

the petition was too pretentious, but I considered that the important matter was

to sign against Morris.

I hope readers were not confused between the new Cambodian Genocide Program and the

Cambodian Documentation Commission existing from the 1980s, to which Heder contributed

as an advisor. Stephen Morris was also at one time associated with it, when it showed

interest in using anti-DK [Democratic Kampuchea] genocide arguments to discredit

the PRK [People's Republic of Kampuchea]. This was one of the 'conspiracies' which

I tried to combat, and which was finally discredited by Heder himself in 1990, as

I earlier noted.

I was also touched by Heder's concern to vouch for me as a loyal red-blooded American

good ol' boy out on the front lines of spookdom against the Evil Empire. Let no more

gossips call me a pinko Commie Marxist. In the heat of his emotion, however, Heder

forgot that in my remarks about relationships between US government employment and

attitudes toward Cambodian politics I was joining him in criticism of Kiernan on

that detail. Readers can see this again in his reference to the same matter in the

final paragraph of his latest performance. I invite them also to compare his denial

of using "thinly disguised" with his earlier review (p. 19).

I strongly defend, however, what I have written about the Amnesty reports on Cambodia

in the 1980s. The excuse that in three consecutive years the release of special Amnesty

reports on Cambodia to coincide with UN votes or a major NGO meeting was by chance

simply will not wash. I continue to believe that Amnesty was playing politics, and

that its politics were anti-PRK. Amnesty's absolutist position, which Heder admits,

and which I consider inappropriate in the circumstances, facilitates attacks on weak

countries trying to recover from political disasters, but subject to Western Great

Power disapproval, and Heder with Amnesty lost no opportunity to take advantage of

that weakness.

Amnesty is still playing that kind of politics. They charged that "international

legal experts expressed the opinion that the expulsion [of Sam Rainsy from the National

Assembly] was illegal", which is in any case hardly a question of human rights,

(AI Index ASA 23/11/95, 22 June 1995), yet the documentation they sent at my request

fell short of demonstrating that opinion.

I do not have time or space to guide readers through all of Heder's emotionalism

and irrelevancies, but with respect to what he said I said about alleged SoC [State

of Cambodia] violence against FUNCINPEC in 1992-93 they should look at a pamphlet

by his UNTAC superior, Timothy Carney, who rather lends support to my cynicism, and

who also there disavows Heder's last UNTAC analysis, on the secession (see Whither

Cambodia? Beyond the Election, by Timothy Carney and Tan Lian Choo, Singapore: Institute

of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993, and my review of same in Journal of Southeast Asian

Studies, September 1995).
- Michael Vickery, Penang.

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