Report of the Public Forum at Pratak Krala Dam, 16 December 2010
On December 16, the second Public Forum organized by Youth for Peace on ‘Ýouth Participation for Justice and Reconciliation’ took place at Pratak Krala Dam, Bosnhinh Village, Kon Sat Commune, Toek Chhou District in Kampot Province.
The forum was organized to inform local residents about the current proceedings of the ECCC especially with regards to religious persecution of Muslims under the Khmer Rouge, as there are many Cham living in the area. Furthermore, the audience was asked to share their ideas on the establishment of a memory site at the Pratak Krala Dam. The dam was built during the Khmer Rouge Regime; its construction caused the death of thousands of workers due to malnutrition, exhaustion and disease.
After welcoming speeches by Mr Mao Yoan, Deputy District Governor of Toek Chhou and Mr Chhun Saven, Representative of Kampot Governor, Mr Long Keth, Executive Director of Youth for Peace, expressed his appreciation to see so many people present, as it is a unique opportunity to discuss with Muslims, Buddhists and members of the court. Mr Ser Dolny, from Kompong Kes Village, representative of the Muslim community, shared his personal story with the audience. He described how he was brought as a 16 year old to a youth unit, where they had to work incredibly hard. He reported that Khmer Rouge soldiers forced him to eat pork, which is against his religious belief. It is still very painful to remember these incidents, he said. The faith of Muslims under the Khmer Rouge and the history of the Pratak Krala Dam were illustrated by showing two short documentaries produced by students of the Department of Media and Communication Studies at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
The functioning of the court and the state of affairs in case 001 and case 002 were explained by Mr Tarik Abdulhak, Senior Court Management Officer. The court being a Cambodian institution with international support is a great opportunity for the domestic jurisdiction, said Mr Dararasmey, Deputy Co-Prosecutor at the ECCC. A girl from the audience asked about the political independence of the court and the allegation of corruption. In response, Mr Dararasmey assured her, that the court is independent and free of corruption, as it would otherwise loose its support by the UN and other international donors. Another person asked how the suppression and punishment of Muslims are issued in the court. In response, Mr Abott, Legal Officer to the Co-Investigating Judges, explained that religious persecution and the attempt to destroy Cambodian Cham and ethnic Vietnamese are part of the charges in case 002 that accuses the four leading figures of the Khmer Rouge Regime inter alia with crimes against humanity, inhumane treatment, torture and genocide.
The second part of the Public Forum focused on the topic of victim participation and non-judicial measures. Ms Audrey Roelandt, Assistant to the Civil Party Lawyer, explained the court’s cooperation with victims of the Regime. Several people in the audience had applied as Civil parties to the court, yet only a few of them were admitted. Kingsley Abott emphasized: “Being a civil party is a legal label; it does not mean if you are not recognized, you are not a victim. You still suffered.” This raised the question of reconciliation efforts beyond the work of the court. Mr Im Sophea, Outreach Coordinator of the Victim Support Section, encouraged the members of the audience to contribute their ideas on how collective and moral reparations could be put in place. “I would like to see a memorial or a sculpture that reminds of the people killed during the construction of the dam,” a woman said. A member of the local youth group, Youth for Peace collaborates with, asked for support to establish a library and to provide materials to study the history. On the other hand, the court representatives warned that usually reparations can only be claimed from the resources of the accused and if there are none, it may be difficult to realize the suggestions for collective and moral reparation.
The forum ended with a joint lunch cooked by members of the commune.