A Cambodian journalism teacher has been named the press officer for the upcoming Khmer Rouge tribunal, officials said Tuesday.
Reach Sambath, 38, was a reporter for Agence France-Presse for 12 years, and is now a stringer for The New York Times and a teacher of journalism at the Cambodian Communication Institute of the Royal Phnom Penh University.
He has a degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton, a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from India and a journalism master’s degree from Columbia University in New York.
“I would like to tell everybody the good news,” he told journalism students on Monday night. “I have been appointed a media person for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.”
He will continue teaching at CCI.
“To have a survivor of the Khmer Rouge as the public face of the trial is very important,” Documentation Center of Cambodia Director Youk Chang said Monday, adding that Reach Sambath witnessed the regime’s brutality as a child.
“The point of having the trial here is to involve Cambodian people, not just hold it and hope they will show up,” he said.
Helen Jarvis, adviser to the government’s tribunal task force, said Monday that she will be chief of public affairs for the tribunal. She said Reach Sambath was chosen in part for his extensive media experience.
“He was chosen because of his general capabilities and because he has been involved with the Cambodian media for a long time,” she said.
Asked if the government’s recent use of the courts to prosecute critics of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and their quick pardons following Hun Sen’s political intervention, bodes ill for the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s independence, Jarvis said no.
“The law stipulates that the tribunal must meet international standards…every effort will be made in ensure that it will,” she said.
Asked the same question, Youk Chang said that with transparency and the involvement of ordinary Cambodians, the tribunal can be handled fairly.