Results of last week’s public forum on national reconciliation were tallied on Monday and revealed that most who attended favor a public trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders.
Chea Vannath, who organized the forum, said of the 106 attendees, 68 checked “advantageous” when asked if a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders would help or hurt national reconciliation.
The president of the Center for Social Development noted, however, that a few people had checked both “advantageous” and “not advantageous.”
The forum was held in Battambang last Thursday and was likely the first time former members of the Khmer Rouge and those who claim to have suffered under their brutal regime have shared the same room.
Teachers, monks, nuns, students, NGO workers, members of the media attended from Battambang and from former Khmer areas in Pailin and Malai. Attendees were given small stipends to cover part of their travel expenses.
“The whole purpose of the public forum is to make Cambodians a little bit closer to each other,” Chea Vannath said. “It doesn’t matter how fair the trial is, we have to talk to each other.”
The survey also asked participants which solutions other than a trial would bring “true national reconciliation.”
Again, respondents were allowed to choose more than one answer, but the highest number of responses were checked on “must be tried.”
A high number of respondents also checked “former Khmer Rouge leaders should publicly admit their faults and apologize” and “more time should be spent on education… before the trial.”
Two more similar forums will be held in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, Chea Vannath said. The forums are invitation-only, and Chea Vannath said she hopes to attract more former Khmer Rouge leaders to upcoming meetings.
Among those who attended the Battambang conference were several Khmer Rouge intellectuals who still remain close to Pol Pot’s “Brother No 3” Ieng Sary, who lives in Pailin.
According to them, the trial should not only focus on those who led the movement from 1975-79. The government has sent its draft to establish the trial to the National Assembly.