19/ NYT (Crossette) announces Genocide Center
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 1995 02:37:21 GMT
Subject: KR Genocide Web site
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <[email protected]>
Scanned & reprinted from New York Times, 9-25-95 Page A-5:
Twenty years after the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and installed one of this century s most brutal regimes a new program sponsored by the United States and Australia is beginning to catalogue the victims of its mass killings and identify their tormentors and executioners.
The Cambodian Genocide Program begun in January at Yale University is establishing data bases that will be made available on the Internet to encourage participation from people everywhere with experience or knowledge of events in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror from April 17 1975 to Jan.7 1979.
The data being assembled electronically include maps of Khmer Rouge prisons and grave sites unearthed in killing fields across Cambodia. Biographical details about leaders of the radical Marxist movement are being compiled along with thousands of photographs of victims and the officials who may have been responsible for their deaths.
Thousands of Khmer Rouge documents are being collected and Cambodians are being trained to use the new information at their disposal to help their efforts to punish the guilty.
The project is not without controversy both in this country and in Cambodia which has been rebuilding in the last few years after decades of civil war.
On one hand the genocide program created by an act of Congress in 1994 is being established at a time of growing interest in finding better ways to deal quickly with crimes against humanity. War crimes tribunals have been created by the United Nations for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda the first such international processes since the trials at Nuremberg and Tokyo at the end of World War II and there is growing pressure to set up a permanent international criminal court.
But in Cambodia the coalition Government that emerged from democratic elections in 1993 includes several former Khmer Rouge officials among them Hun Sen, one of two Prime Ministers in a power-sharing arrangement. The other Prime Minister is Prince Norodom Ranariddh whose father King Sihanouk allied himself with the Khmer Rouge twice in a quarter-century.
Although both Prime Ministers expressed support for the program in speeches in August, many influential Cambodians are known to be opposed to war crimes trials, preferring to let the past be buried.
Scholars involved with the genocide project and some outsiders say it aims to give Cambodians the information and training they need to pursue cases against Khmer Rouge leaders in any way they choose, not to conduct trials for them.
The burden will be on the Cambodians to dig out the facts and decide what to do with them, said Frederick Z. Brown, a former State Department official who was in charge of Indochinese affairs when the Khmer Rouge came to power.
Mr. Brown, now a senior fellow at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, said in an interview that he had at first been skeptical about the program, which is under State Department control but is also supported by the Australian Foreign Ministry. He said it first seemed to look like "a make-work project, idealistic but without practical application."
"I have changed my mind," he said. "The project is very thoughtfully structured. It gives the United States the role of providing a framework and a mechanism to explore this issue.
Conservatives in Congress have criticized the choice of an Australian scholar, Ben Kiernan, to head the program. Mr. Kiernan, a leading authority on the Khmer Rouge era who teaches history at Yale, is remembered by many as a defender of the Cambodian Communists, even when accounts of their atrocities began emerging in the late 1970's.
A public campaign against Mr. Kiernan is being led by another Australian historian in the United States, Stephen J. Morris.
In July more than two dozen leading scholars and specialists on Cambodia wrote open letters in support of Kiernan, who they say acknowledged his error as early as 1978 and has been working to expose atrocities ever since.
"There is no one in the U.S. involvement or the anti-war movement that opposed the bombing of Cambodia who does not share some responsibility for the tragedy of Cambodia, John McAuliff, director of the independent U.S.-Indochina Reconciliation Project, said in a recent interview in New York.
For two decades there have also been disagreements in many quarters about the legal definition of genocide and whether it applies to the Cambodian tragedy.
"The main issue of debate in Cambodia is whether genocide was committed with respect to the Khmer nation in whole or in part," said Jason Abrams, a legal consultant to the State Department on the project. "While a case can be made that the Khmer Rouge singled out Buddhist monks and minorities like the ethnic Chinese, the ethnic Vietnamese and the Muslim Chams, it is harder to make a case for genocide against the nation," said Mr. Abrams, who is now deputy executive director of the Open Society Institute in New York.
"Nobody was thinking of autogenocide when the genocide convention was written," he said. "It is frustrating for Cambodian participants to hear that not everything that happened was genocide. It is distressing for them to learn that legal-technical definitions may not make them all victims of genocide.
"But very serious crimes against humanity were committed by the Khmer Rouge against the whole Cambodian population. From a moral perspective these crimes were brutal, horrible atrocities. Technical labels should not detract from that in any way."
The Documentation Center of Cambodia in Phnom Penh can be located through the Internet at http://www.pactok.net.au. The center's electronic mail address is <[email protected]>.