Haruhisa Handa, the Japanese philanthropist, religious leader, self-styled business guru and author also known as Toshu Fukami, announced Monday a $1.3 million compensation and memorial fund for victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Haruhisa Handa, who is also the founder of the Japanese Blind Golf Association, is providing $300,000 for the fund, while his welfare organization, World Mate, will be footing the rest of the bill, he said.
Survivors of the regime will be invited to apply for money from the fund, which aims to initially give $100 per family to 10,000 families.
“If I get more donations, I can give more money for people,” Haruhisa Handa said at a news conference at the University of Cambodia, where he is chancellor.
The rest of the $1.3 million will go on to details such as managing the project, advertising and research, he said.
Families will be able to choose what they spend the money on, Haruhisa Handa said. “In essence, the fund is truly more of a symbolic gesture to psychologically and spiritually support the Cambodian people,” he said.
The money should be made available by September, and a committee established by the university will determine which families get the money, said university President Kao Kim Hourn.
Sean Visoth, secretary of the government’s Khmer Rouge Tribunal Taskforce, said he was unclear about the details of the project and declined immediate comment.
Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he was skeptical.
“No one can compensate genocide, even God,” he said, adding that he would not accept money for a relative who died during the Khmer Rouge. “I’m sure [Haruhisa Handa] has good intent, but they should think carefully. It requires understanding and study.”
The project could undermine human rights by fostering the impression that a life is worth $100, Youk Chhang said. The poor will likely accept the money, but for day-to-day survival rather than as compensation, he said.
Chey Sopheara, director of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, said people may falsely claim to be victims of the Khmer Rouge in order to get the money.
Lim Srey Phalla, a Khmer Rouge survivor in Phnom Penh, opposed the project. “A hundred dollars for compensation is disdaining human life,” she said.