Three families living in the jungle, on the river, and in the countryside of Cambodia, stand at the brink of an uncertain destiny and future. Photo by Mam Kalyanee.

Beyond International Law: Why Education Matters in Post-Conflict Societies

This monograph proposes a new type of transitional justice instrument dedicated to education, dialogue, and reconciliation. Drawing from a critical analysis of international law’s reliance on formal court systems to achieve transitional justice goals, Christopher Dearing and co-author, Phala Chea, advised by Professor Jaya Ramji-Nogales and DC-Cam Director Youk Chhang, will outline a transitional justice model, in the form of an educational program, to be used in post-conflict societies. The ultimate aim of this model (a Truth, History and Education Committee) is to strengthen democratic values and human rights in post-conflict societies. In presenting this model, we will use the Documentation Center of Cambodia’s Genocide Education Project as a case-study in both laying the foundation for what will become the Truth, History and Education Committee of Cambodia as well as proposing ideas for the future.

Christopher Dearing and Chea Phala


Protecting Cambodia's Future
Environment, Peacebuilding, and Natural Resources Management after Genocide and Crimes against Humanity

From 1968 to 1998, Cambodia endured on-going civil war and genocide that had a devastating impact on the country. While many people are aware of the death, human suffering, and physical destruction caused by such violence, fewer have paid attention to the ways in which this violence has directly contributed to contemporary environmental problems in Cambodia, such as illegal or inefficient regulation of natural resources, land grabs, mining, toxic dumping, and environmental degradation. Moreover, there is also a growing awareness that, in post-conflict countries like Cambodia, issues of water and resource availability, food security, and climate change may also increase the likelihood of renewed violent conflict.

Our project, "Protecting Cambodia's Future: Environment, Peacebuilding, and Natural Resources Management after Genocide and Crimes against Humanity," directly addresses these critical but understudied issues. Working with its long-time university partner, Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights, DC-Cam's Sleuk Rith Institute proposes to undertake a five-year, nation-wide education and training program focused on the environment, natural resources management, and peacebuilding in Cambodia. Specifically, the program will involve: (a) primary research on the environment and sustainable natural resources management; (b) grassroots training and empowerment; (c) government and civil society education; (d) educational modules for secondary education; and (e) a gender and minority awareness program. All of these endeavors will be geared to increasing awareness and understanding, enhancing capacity, and finding solutions to the critical environmental and natural resources management issues Cambodia now faces.

Eng Kok-Thay and Alexander Hinton


Empowering Ethnic Minority Groups and Women through Culture and Education

Cambodia requires stronger measures to empower ethnic minorities and women and to remedy the effects of discrimination and violence on the basis of sex or ethnic identity. This project will build upon Documentation Center of Cambodia's extensive experience in documenting oral histories and outreach to promote the culture and tradition of ethnic minority groups. It will empower ethnic minority groups and women through social development activities, by documenting oral histories, and by establishing a center for minority cultures and women's oral history program. The project will take a rights-based approach. It will start from the four central principles of non-discrimination, participation, accountability, and transparency, this proposed project focuses on the intersection of poverty reduction, gender equity, and cultural preservation against the backdrop of post-conflict politics and globalization. In collaboration with local museums and local authorities in the northeast parts of Cambodia, Documentation Center of Cambodia will undertake a three-year nationwide research, educational and empowerment program focused on cultural preservation and dialogue, research and documentation, development and gender equity. Building on cultural awareness and identity, it will provide a foundation for mutual understanding and socio-economic development in the long run, increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by ethnic minorities and women, enhance the capacity of local community members to preserve and protect their socio-cultural value, and reduce poverty and illiteracy.

So Farina and Jaya Ramji-Nogales


Communication between Cambodia and Burma: Documentation, Research, and Education

A key part of our vision for the Sleuk Rith Institute is to exercise regional leadership. We are well positioned to serve as a regional center focused on historical documentation and human rights education given Cambodia's tragic history and its recent efforts to deal with the Khmer Rouge legacy. The need to document history and confront the past is an issue that extends across political boundaries, and we are eager to share our experiences elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Building on our experience as a leader in historical research and educational reform in Cambodia, this project will focus on building capacity for similar activities in Burma/Myanmar, which will be the first step toward an establishment of documentation and research center in Burma. Burma/Myanmar's recent moves toward liberalization and the victories of Aung San Suu Kyi and other National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates in recent by-elections present an opportunity for Documentation Center of Cambodia to make a particularly useful contribution. For Burma/Myanmar to move forward along the difficult path to democracy and respect for basic political freedoms, it will need to undertake many of the same steps as Cambodia. Part of that process will be to document events in its troubled past and to pursue historical truth and accountability in a responsible and effective manner. Great openness also provides a pathway for educational reform that will contribute to national reconciliation.

Youk Chhang and John Ciorciari


The Politics of Racism: Anti-Vietnamese Sentiment in Cambodia

I have studied the Cambodian genocide for more than ten years. During this time I have tried to understand the root causes of genocide. I have studied how the Khmer Rouge came to power, why they killed their own people, who the victims were and contributing factors that led to it. I have now understood the Khmer Rouge genocide in greater details after years of primary and secondary research. I have also studied other cases of genocide around the world and learnt that human beings have both the capacity to love and inflict tragedy on each other in a large scale in which so many members of perpetrating society takes part. I have also studied theories of genocide to look at consistent patterns which we can use to predict genocide, prevent it and stop it from happening. What I have learnt is that genocide can hardly be predicted especially the exact moment when it happens which is so important for military intervention. However one can identify the conditions which combine to make genocide happen and these conditions can be stopped. One of the conditions for genocide to happen is sustained hatred between two or more communities. Hatred can be one-directional or reciprocal. Racial discrimination is one condition which can lead to murderous rampage by one group against another and it has always been a factor in many genocide cases around the world. Racial discrimination has a history. Understanding it is important for racial coexistence in the future.

The level of anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia, especially most recently before, during and after the Cambodian national election in July 2013 has reached an alarming point. It has led to public condemnation of ethnic Vietnamese and death of a Vietnamese man. In previous elections members of Vietnamese ethnic died due to increased level of anti-Vietnamese sentiment. Looking at conditions that can lead to genocide, I am compelled to understand why anti-Vietnamese sentiment exists in Cambodia. When did it begin? Which members of Cambodian community are most discriminatory against the Vietnamese ethnic? Can the two peoples be reconciled? What kinds of discrimination do Vietnamese and ethnic Vietnamese people who live in Cambodia face?

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia has a long history. Nobody knows when it started but it should begin at around the period after Vietnam completed annexation of Southern Champa in the 19th century and when Vietnam dominated Cambodia. During this period Vietnam attempted to introduce Vietnamese culture in the country which Cambodian resisted. The anti-Vietnamese sentiment was sustained by the loss of Cambodia's Mekong delta to Vietnam, the Koh Tral (Phu Quoc) island, incremental loss of eastern territory of Cambodia and continued struggle by the Khmer Krom people in South Vietnam. Illegal Vietnamese immigrants also exacerbated this problem. Some Cambodian people believe that illegal Vietnamese immigrants steal their job, cut down the Cambodian forest through concessions and illegal logging and over fish. Vietnamese immigrants are thieves and uncivilized. Cambodian people also think that large Vietnamese companies collude with local business men and politicians to mine, overfish and to steal tourist money from Cambodia. Most importantly Cambodians believe that Vietnam never gives up their intention to take over more Cambodian land and that influx of illegal immigrants is a phase in this take over. The same happened with the lower Mekong Delta and the Phu Quoc island when Vietnamese began to inhabit the area and then annex it.

Discrimination they receive in Cambodia include: being frowned at in public places, being considered inferior, not welcomed, unequal, illegal. They are called derogatorily as Yuon. This name equates with cheap, fake, cheat and being uncivilized. Cambodian people do not actively search and hurt Vietnamese in Cambodia and there is no law in Cambodia which establishes Vietnamese as second class. But they are not defended when arguments take place in public between Khmer and Vietnamese. In practice their lives and rights are not well-protected. Justice for them are not very concerned by local authority, either the authority dislikes them or protecting the Vietnamese too much could lead to backlash from anti-Vietnamese group.

This paper discusses the role of anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodian-Vietnam relations and how politics between the two countries shape anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Cambodia. It also attempts to trace connections between Cambodian and Vietnamese and determine the time period in which discrimination might have begun. In racism, it mostly looks at the Cambodian perspectives. This research will also examine instances in Cambodia where large number of Vietnamese and ethnic Vietnamese were driven from their homes and killed and to understand the circumstances around these instances. The research examines sentiment during the Popular Socialist Community regime of Prince Sihanouk and anti-Vietnamese agenda of Lon Nol from 1970 to 1975. It looks particularly at the Khmer Rouge regime where Vietnamese and ethnic Vietnamese were particularly pinpointed for destruction. It examines Cambodian-Vietnam politics in the 1980s after the Vietnamese military action against the Khmer Rouge, determines level of anti-Vietnamese sentiment and the sentiment's roles shaping politics then. At the same time it surveys opinion of Cambodian people whether this military action was a liberation of their lives from genocide or an invasion of Vietnam on Cambodia which they had so far feared. The research finally studies post-Cold War sentiment, the roles of the sentiment in gaining or decreasing electoral votes, the killings as a result of the sentiment and the reaction of Cambodian people in general. The research also studies the plight of Khmer Krom people and their struggle for independence. Important historical circumstances that might have contributed to this anti-Vietnamese sentiment will also be looked at as well as major territorial loss by Cambodia to Vietnam including the Lower Mekong Delta and the Kol Tral (Phu Quoc) island. The central aims of these chapters are to understand when anti-Vietnamese sentiment happened, why it happened, how it is sustained, exacerbated or subsides and its level through time.

Eng Kok-Thay