Cambodia: Coming to Terms with the Past
Hopes of financial compensation for survivors of Pol Pot’s brutal regime that ruled Cambodia with an iron fist between 1975 and early 1979 are becoming less likely as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal continues to wind down.
The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), which was sworn in 16 years ago and charged with prosecuting senior leaders of the regime for unleashing one of the worst mass killings in the 20th century, could secure only three guilty verdicts for crimes against humanity and genocide.
“Compensation could only work with a complete acknowledgement of responsibility,” said Ou Virak, president of the Phnom Penh-based Future Forum think tank. “There are far too many people who remained in power and too many powerful countries that need to be held accountable.”
Since the tribunal was only responsible for pursuing crimes inside Cambodia during the four-year regime, it meant China, which backed Pol Pot, and America’s involvement in the Indochina wars were not a consideration amid the mountains of evidence.
Instead, genocide museums, memorials, stupas and education programs will make up the legacy to be left behind by the ECCC. “Global investment in genocide museums here in Cambodia, potentially funded by countries who want to salvage their souls, could be a good starting point,” said Ou Virak.