In an effort to solicit the views and opinions of former Khmer Rouge members, the Center for Social Development is organizing a public forum focusing on justice and national reconciliation in the former rebel stronghold of Pailin next month. More than 100 people will be invited to the forum, slated for March 16, CSD President Chea Vannath said Monday.
“The public forum is very important because we will mobilize the masses from the former Khmer Rouge people and others to discuss how Cambodia should move forward,” she said.
Khmer Rouge researchers, psychologists, students, and officials from Pailin and Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces are invited.
“In the past, we discussed this issue and we will listen to the voices of former Khmer Rouge people and others,” Chea Vannath said. “We have a lot of problems in the country and we have to find a better way of building the country together by avoiding the repetition of tragic history,” she added.
Pailin residents Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and former “Brother No 2” Nuon Chea are not expected to be invited, she said, as they are considered too political. Keut Sothea, deputy Pailin governor, said the municipal government has agreed to the forum.
“This is good, as the people can learn something more, though I don’t think this will be a big solution for the problems of people living here. It’s up to society, and we are developing according to the government policy,” he said.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, questioned the notion of the forum.
“Pailin is not an appropriate place for a public forum and I wonder what the main expectation will be. The former Khmer Rouge people have doublespeak,” he said.
But opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said the forum was important.
Low-ranking Khmer Rouge killers should be encouraged to apologize to the nation in order to “heal the wound and make people feel mentally relieved,” he said, adding that this might prove more effective than putting the top leaders of the genocidal regime on trial.