The Khmer Rouge Tribunal:
Why has it taken so long to establish Asia’s
first genocide tribunal? Will it achieve justice both for the living
A talk by Tom
Reinhard Hohler, Patrick McGowan, Ken Dyer, Kosum Saichan,
Glynn Morgan, Mathew Smith, Constance Brereton, Bonnie Brereton, Nikko
Stezygne Szano, Gianni Lia, Annelie Hendriks, Manus Brinkman, Thomas
Richard Nelson-Jones, Kain Victor, Juergen Polte, Dianne & Mark
Barber-Riley, Guy Cardinal, Hans & Saengdao Bänziger, Victoria
John Cadet, Ian Ross, Arthur Wright, Olivier Evrard. An audience of 28.
Tom Fawthrop is
a British journalist
covering SE Asia and has been reporting on Cambodia
since 1981 for
international newspapers such as The Economist and The
Times. His first glimpse of gun-toting Khmer Rouge teenagers was
in a jungle along the Cambodian-Thai border. He has also witnessed a
momentous events in his career, including the downfall of the Marcos
the destruction of East Timor by
of his talk.
Justice & the Cambodian Tragedy
the atrocities of our times, one of the worst was what happened in Cambodia
1975-79, the era of the Pol Pot regime. His Khmer Rouge forces driven
brutal mixture of xenophobic nationalism and an extreme Maoist creed
the cities and turned the country into a vast rural gulag. They killed
mass executions and torture or caused the death from starvation and
medicine 1.7 million Cambodians - an estimated 22% of the population.
now, 27 years later, international justice is finally catching up with
mass murderers. Pol Pot is dead - but those top leaders who are still
now the subject of an indictment before the Khmer Rouge Tribunal that
currently being set up in Phnom
earth has it taken so long for Cambodians to have the opportunity to
dark chapter of their history and have the satisfaction of seeing
and their tormentors held accountable?
the Nazi genocide against the Jews, the world came together in the
Nations to pass the 1948 Geneva Convention for the Prevention and the
Prosecution of Genocide.
it not implemented back in 1979 immediately after the overthrow of the
regime? (Convenor: one of the reasons Tom gave for this was that
Rouge had murdered almost all of the judges, and anyone else with an
not for any lack of evidence. In the middle of Cambodia's
capital city of Phnom Penh,
there is a very unusual school building. Years ago it was a school. But
didn't become notorious until after it was converted into a political
called S-21. For several years S-21 was a place of indescribable
said then that you could hear the screams from blocks away. Today there
an eerie silence.
a Vietnamese photographer stumbled on S-21 and found that most of its
of inmates, confessions and horrible tortures remained intact. This
a prosecutors dream.
evidence were available even back then. Hundreds of
survivors were eager to testify about the horrors of the Pol Pot
regime. But where were the human
lawyers and investigators in 1979?
The KRT tribunal
been delayed for 27 years primarily because Washington and its allies
UN member states to accept the credentials of the Pol Pot regime, even
had been driven out of Phnom
The voting record shows that not one western government ever opposed
seating of the Pol Pot delegation. The UN was bullied and cajoled into
accepting a murderous regime functioning largely from exile in Thailand.
diplomacy has become one of the most shameful chapters in UN history.
already a victim of US B52 bombing and the Pol Pot regime, was made to
all over again because it had been liberated in 1979 by the wrong
Cambodian refugees and survivors called for an international tribunal,
Bill Hayden, the then Australian foreign minister, international NGOs
prime minister. They were contemptuously ignored by the very
governments that see
themselves as the western guardians of global human rights.
was viewed as a dangerous diversion at a time when Washington
intent on backing the anti-Vietnamese insurgency of Pol Pot and his
the 80s, while Oxfam was helping Cambodians recover from Year Zero with
clean water and sanitation, Britain
was sending SAS trainers to advise the anti-Vietnamese coalition
including the Khmer Rouge, camped on the Thai border - so that they
effectively sabotage Cambodia's
why more recent genocides in Bosnia,
and Sierra Leone
have all leapfrogged over Cambodia – in
those countries international justice and trials for crimes against
and genocide have already started years ago.
Cambodian Tribunal is unique. It is the tribunal that the pundits said
never happen because some governments have been implicated and
their support for the Khmer Rouge. China,
the US, UK, Thailand,
all opposed any attempt to put Pol Pot on trial during the 1980s and
been involved in covert support of Khmer Rouge forces and their allies.
not until 1997 that the UN General Assembly finally recognised that
against humanity had occurred during the Pol Pot era and that the
should be held accountable.
2003 a treaty was signed between the Cambodian government and the UN to
tribunal in Phnom Penh.
Based on a partnership of international judges and lawyers working
with Cambodian judges and lawyers. These judges have now been named, a
Secretariat is now functioning and the tribunal is expected to open in
of justice is now memory and time. The memories of witnesses and
fading, and many of those with evidence to give are dying. Several
leaders, including Pol Pot, have cheated justice with their own deaths.
after all the time lost, Cambodians have a right to a final hearing. So
hurdles have been surmounted that it is now only a matter of funding.
Tom Fawthrop has
reported on Cambodia
and SE Asia since 1979 for
international media including the
Guardian, Irish Times the Economist and BBC online.
He is the
of “ GETTING AWAY WITH GENOCIDE
& the Khmer Rouge Tribunal “
By Tom Fawthrop /
Dr. Helen Jarvis
The book covers
period from 1979 -2004 including Cambodia
after the Khmer Rouge/ the struggle to preserve the evidence during the
and raise the issue/ the Khmer Rouge battle to regain power backed by China and the complicity of western
/diplomacy and UN peacekeeping in Cambodia.
reconciliation – the Cambodian model of dealing with their tragic
past. What a
tribunal can hope to achieve and why Cambodian people 27 years on still
for justice/who will be put on trial and where are the suspects now?
Contains rare pix
Pol Pot enjoying hospitality in Thailand
Published in UK
Pluto Books. It is available here in Chiangmai through INTG at the
price of 800 Baht (over 1300 baht Asia Books) by contacting Louis
to Meeting Diary