22/ Julio Jeldres criticizes petition.
PHNOM PENH POST 28 July-10 Aug. 1995
The letter from the Cambodian scholars and specialists disowning Dr Stephen Morris of Harvard University (Post, June 30-July 13) strikes me as a somewhat curious example of academic arrogance, which diminishes even further the credibility of this so-called "majority" of scholars and students of Cambodians affairs. A few facts must be brought to your readers' attention.
1) As recently as two months ago, two of the signatories of the said statement personally told me that they felt that Ben Kiernan "was not an impartial or balanced person to carry out the work of the Cambodian Genocide Program". Why have they now signed the statement addressed to the Phnom Penh Post if they don't trust Kiernan?
2) This so-called "majority of Cambodian scholars and specialists" includes names of people who have strongly supported the Khmer Rouges' revolution and who initially dismissed reports by refugees arriving at the Thai border escaping from the massacres of Pol Pot's henchmen. After Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia they rapidly switched support to the pro-Vietnam Khmer Rouge regime established in Phnom Penh by the Vietnamese army of occupation.
3) Leaving aside David Chandler, Milton Osborne, Frederick Brown and Nayan Chanda whose work on Cambodia is respected in academic circles, the list includes mostly US or Australian-based "specialists", some of them not well-known or unheard of in the Cambodian studies field. Other French, English, Thai, Cambodian and German scholars who have written extensively abut Cambodia and conducted serious research and studies on Cambodia's past and contemporary history are arrogantly dismissed as the "minority", because they do not agree with Kiernan's appointment.
4) It has to be understood that the opposition against Kiernan is based on solid evidence, i.e. his writings and activities for the period 1975-1978, the period of the worst killings in Cambodia, when Kiernan and his wife, Chantou Boua, went out of their way to defend Pol Pot and his mob of genocidal maniacs. For instance, in letters addressed to the London Times on August 10 and 11,1977, Kiernan and his wife compared the conditions in a Melbourne (Australia) factory unfavorably with the conditions of the peasants in Pol Pot's "Democratic Kampuchea".
5) To suggest, as the signatories of the above-mentioned letter do, that Kiernan's writings from 1975-1978 were a kind of teenager's mistakes, is to be rather economical with the truth. Kiernan was and is a highly political animal and has been so for many years. He was no naive innocent when he actively defended Pol Pot and associates and was as contemptuous of any contrary view as it was possible to be. Whatever Kiernan's subsequent acts of contrition since Pol Pot's fall, they still do not make him a credible person to head an impartial investigation into Pol Pot's atrocities.
6) I do not recall French or Italian supporters of Hitler being appointed to head the investigation of Hitler's massacres in Europe prior to the Nuremberg trials. The investigators and researchers were people of impeccable credentials and totally impartial to carry out such an important task. Yet most of the people appointed to work with Kiernan are people that actively supported Pol Pot's rule in Cambodia and then switched to active and vociferous support for the pro-Vietnamese Khmer Rouge regime established in Cambodia by the Vietnamese army. What assurances do we have that they will conduct an impartial investigation? For instance, none of these people, despite being "scholars and specialists" on Cambodia have ever said a word about the violations of human rights during the Vietnamese/PRK period in Cambodia or during the SoC period prior to the May 1993 elections. Indeed, some of them went as far as signing a letter to the Post, two weeks before the May 1993 elections (Post, May 7-20, 1993) demanding the recognition by the international community of the PRK/SoC regime "as the legal government of Cambodia" without elections!
It is very unfortunate that the Cambodian Genocide program which was originally a good idea, has been totally discredited by the appointment of Kiernan and his chums to conduct the investigation.