San Jose Forum: February 26, 2011

(Video: Cambodian Survivors Seek Justice courtesy of New America Media.)

On February 26, 2011, CJA and ASRIC conducted their first joint forum for Cambodian
survivors in the Bay Area.  Approximately 50 survivors attended the
event, which was held in a Khmer Krom temple located in San Jose,
California.  The event featured a blessing ceremony by two Cambodian
Buddhist monks in which the survivors were invited to submit the names
of loved ones who died under the Khmer Rouge regime for blessing by the
monks.  Dr. Leakhena Nou from ASRIC introduced CJA to the local
Cambodian community and provided an update on ASRIC’s program of
collecting and submitting survivor testimony from Cambodian-Americans to
the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.  Dr. Nou explained to the attendants that 76%
of the survivors who applied to participate in the upcoming trial
through ASRIC were admitted by the Court as civil parties.  This is the
highest acceptance rate of any survivor association and ASRIC and CJA
represent a majority of the Cambodian survivors living in the United
States participating in the Tribunal.

CJA legal director Andrea Evans provided background on the law and
structure of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, as well as a background on the
defendants in the upcoming trial.  CJA played a video of the defendant
in Case 001, Kaing Guk Eav (alias Comrade Duch) accepting responsibility
for his crimes and apologizing to all the survivors who were harmed by
the Khmer Rouge.  The survivors responded positively to the video, some
seeing an image of the courtroom and Comrade Duch for the first time.

Next, CJA staff attorney Nushin Sarkarati provided information on
survivor participation and reparations that can be issued by the Court
at the end of the trial.  The audience was shown another video of two
survivors from S-21 (Tuol Sleng) prison testifying in Court during the
trial against Comrade Duch.  The video provided the audience with an
example of survivor participation and many of the audience members
voiced their approval of the Court’s innovative procedure in permitting
victim to directly participate in trials as civil parties.  CJA then
responded to questions from the audience, which concerned issues of
political interference at the ECCC, whether the Court would continue to
try more former Khmer Rouge leaders, and questions concerning the rights
of the defendants at trial.  CJA emphasized that the defendants are
given the same rights afforded to survivors at the trial and that the
Court must treat both sides equally in order to establish a fair and
just judgment at the end of the trial.  

During the discussion on reparations, survivors expressed their
excitement in the Court’s power to provide justice on behalf of their
loved ones who died during the war.  Many survivors expressed a desire
to see a museum built in Phnom Penh that would house photographs and
mementos of life in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge and preserve survivor
testimony of the atrocities witnessed and endured during the war. 
Other survivors explained that education on the history of Cambodia and
preservation of evidence are also important reparations that will
address the harms of the Cambodian people by warning future generations
of the dangers of despotic rule.  

Ten survivors came forward and shared stories and photographs of loved
ones who died during the Khmer Rouge regime.  CJA and ASRIC ended the
event by promising to advocate on behalf of Cambodian American survivors
during the upcoming trial and to work hard in developing programs and
reparations that address their desires for justice, preservation of
evidence, and education for future generations on the history of
Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge.