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Absolution on the air: Radio producer turns documentary director

Absolution on the air: Radio producer turns documentary director


Tiep Seiha aims to educate his audience – and provide reconciliation for his interviewees – by adapting a successful radio show to the screen

A couple of state-of-the-art rotating cameras point at two men in a room, casting silhouettes under the incandescent electric bulbs – Tiep Seiha and his accompanying cameraman press the ‘record’ button on their cameras at the same time. Without the help of any cues, the two men break into a seamless string of improvised dialogue, recorded by video equipment and microphones in the studio.

Tiep Seiha is a radio producer, creating radio magazine shows and current affairs productions for nonprofit organisation, Youth for Peace (YFP).

Recently, he collaborated with colleagues in producing a documentary recounting the tribulations of child soldiers fighting for the Khmer Rouge regime. Chorn Pond Arn was picked to be his protagonist because of his circumstances, having endured hardship of the Khmer Rouge military as a child.

One of Tiep Seiha’s projects is a radio programme titled “You Too Have A Chance” encouraging those who suffered under the Khmer Rouge to draw on their memories and share their stories.

YFP recently made a US$2,000 offer to create a documentary that showcases stories similar to those aired on his radio programme.

“My documentary aims to encourage all former Khmer Rouge people such as soldiers to share freely with me their stories,” Tiep Seiha said.

He said he sees it as critical to emphasise reconciliation between victims and perpetrators of the Pol Pot regime, and that he’s aware many Cambodians conceal their feelings of fear or shame. He added that many neglect or ignore the impact that the regime had on them.

Tiep Seiha believes that if Khmer Rouge survivors and soldiers are given a voice they might be more open in sharing their stories, and that this can be a healing process, helping them to release their anxieties. He adds: “Our country is now developing. If we still keep revenge in our minds, and if we cannot bring ourselves to apologise, peace will never happen.”

The Khmer Rouge tribunal has been operating for close to six years, but Tiep Seiha said many people are fearful of speaking about their dark past. In producing his documentaries, he prods his subjects to be candid and pushes wrongdoers to confess.

Reconciliation and redemption, Tiep Seiha said, are necessary for the country to grow and move on.

Despite having listened to various media, he said, he has never heard any of the perpetrators confess to their crimes. They tend to echo sentiments they harbour of themselves being victims.

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