Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Students see Khmer Rouge tribunal as educational tool: study

Students see Khmer Rouge tribunal as educational tool: study

Cambodian students listen to closing statements at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. A new report shows Phnom Penh students consider the court’s most important legacy to be education, ahead of justice or reconciliation. ECCC
Cambodian students listen to closing statements at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. A new report shows Phnom Penh students consider the court’s most important legacy to be education, ahead of justice or reconciliation. ECCC

Students see Khmer Rouge tribunal as educational tool: study

A new study probing the impressions of Phnom Penh students of the Khmer Rouge tribunal revealed they see the international court more as an educational tool than a means for justice.

In the study, conducted by Stanford University’s WSD Handa Center for Human Rights, 83 students were surveyed in focus groups, along with 16 civil society members, government actors and educators.

“Students identified the potential for the Tribunal to educate their generation about the past as its biggest potential legacy; ranking this higher than judicial, psychological, or capacity-building legacies,” the report read.

Of the 65 students who responded to a question about the court’s purpose, 32 percent said it was to “teach the next generation about what happened or learn the truth”, 18 percent said it was to provide justice or reconciliation and 15 percent said it was to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leaders. Another 14 percent said the tribunal – also known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia – was about healing the suffering of the past.

“This is interesting because often in discussions about the ECCC , it is these other legacies that come up more often – ending impunity, strengthening the capacity of domestic courts or providing justice or some type of healing for the victims,” said lead author Caitlin McCaffrie.

“In contrast to some commonly held views that young people are just not interested in the history, we found most people were very curious, they had opinions and they had a lot of questions.”

In the words of one student, “the purpose of the tribunal is for the next generation who did not experience the regime, so they can know what happened”.

Yet Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, stressed the tribunal was, first and foremost, a court.

“The ECCC is a court of law, not a history department,” he said, saying seeing the tribunal as a teaching tool “completely undermines” the years and millions invested in it. “Its legacy is justice . . . to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leaders.”

But the findings came as little surprise to both sides of the courtroom in the current case against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe said the findings “made perfect sense” as there was a strong yearning for Cambodians to learn about the events during the Democratic Kampuchea era.

Koppe said the majority of Chea’s closing brief in Case 002/02 was dedicated to expounding on the former Brother Number Two’s theory – dubbed “The Crocodile” – about the history of the communist movement and the role of Vietnam.

“Explaining this history was indeed the sole reason for Nuon Chea to keep participating in these extremely flawed proceedings until the end and for me not to withdraw as his lawyer,” Koppe said.

International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian – whose team has derided Chea’s crocodile as “fake history” – took a different slant. “A critical legacy for all international criminal courts, whether we are talking about Nuremberg, the Yugoslav or Rwandan tribunals or the ECCC, is to contribute to greater understanding of the truth about momentous historical events,” he said. “As the philosopher said, ‘Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it’.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol

  • Ministry to 'seek justice' for officials indicted in US for 'monkey smuggling'

    The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said they will make the “utmost effort” to seek justice for a Cambodian official arrested in John F Kennedy International Airport in New York for allegedly conspiring to smuggle crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis)