Push for reconciliation in former Khmer Rouge stronghold

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen answers a question from the attendees at a meeting of former Khmer Rouge in Anlong Veng. [Robert Carmichael]

Wed, 14 Apr 2010

Robert Carmichael, Anlong Veng
ABC Radio Australia

Villagers in one of the last strongholds of Cambodia Khmer Rouge are being invited to join a program of national reconciliation.

Anlong Veng was the last stronghold of the Khmer Rouge, which surrendered to the government a little over a decade ago, and many former Khmer Rouge and their families live here, and some of the movement's leaders are still held in high regard.

Cambodian NGO the Center for Justice and Reconciliation, organised a function in Anlong Veng to bring together 150 former Khmer Rouge and their families, along with five Buddhist monks, the district governor, and staff from the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal.

Daravuth Seng, head of the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program to succeed at reconciliation means listening to what former perpetrators have to say, despite knowing that many still support what the Khmer Rouge stood for.

"We have to somehow include them without compromising our message, without compromising our stance, in this reconciliation process as far as we can't say black is white and white is black just to try to accommodate," he said.

"So there is a fine balance between accommodation and understanding."

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried by the United Nations-backed tribunal in Phnom Penh, over the 1975-1979 regime which is reckoned to be responsible for at least 1.5 million deaths.

There are concerns among former Khmer Rouge and supporters about further prosecutions, and last year Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that trying more people could lead to war.

Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen says the people of Anlong Veng are clearly concerned that prosecutions could ensnare more and more of them, which is not the case, and the court must better communicate its plans to former Khmer Rouge.

"The big difference is of course that we need to try to de-dramatize what we are doing here, because there is a fear we can see here that we will prosecute a lot of people, and they feel that can create instability in their communities," he said.


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