The US government approved a resolution last week, vowing to honor and seek justice for victims of the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge genocide.
The resolution, which was passed by the US Congress on Nov 19, states that it honors the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime and “is committed to pursue justice” for them.
US Republican Party lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher said the resolution marked the US’ recognition of its role in the Indochina conflict from which the Khmer Rouge regime emerged.
“Cambodia was pushed into a regional conflict in the 1960s by the Vietnamese and the US,” Rohrabacher said, according to a copy of the transcript of the Congressional session.
“During that time period, we turned our back on something that we had pushed them into,” Rohrabacher said, “we held our fingers to our ears and refused to hear the cries of agony that [were] coming from the slaughter that was taking place there in Cambodia.”
Rohrabacher, a long-time supporter of opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, also took the opportunity of the new resolution to implicate Prime Minister Hun Sen in the regime.
Hun Sen was a midranking Khmer Rouge military commander before defecting to Vietnam.
Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the largest repository of documents related to the Khmer Rouge regime, said Monday that Rohrabacher’s statements were only his personal interpretation of what the US resolution means.
Craig Etcheson, a Khmer Rouge genocide expert from the US, said by e-mail Tuesday that last week’s resolution was one of numerous others put forth by the US government related to the Cambodian genocide.
Since the latest resolution did not outline specific actions the US government would take, he said, it was impossible to determine whether it would have any impact on the long-stalled UN-assisted Khmer Rouge tribunal.
Etcheson said that various government officials had made comments in the past, “recognizing the role that the US played in the unfolding of Cambodia’s tragedy.”
But Etcheson added: “No outside power forced the Khmer Rouge to exterminate 2 million or more Cambodians. The Khmer Rouge leadership must take sole responsibility for those genocidal policies.”
Although some people in the countryside resented the US for bombing inside the Cambodian border, the Khmer Rouge’s rise to power was a result of many factors, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday.
“We don’t want to give judgment because Cambodians would say put the past in the back,” Khieu Kanharith said.
Defending Hun Sen’s role in the Khmer Rouge against the US lawmaker’s allegations, Khieu Kanharith said the prime minister was just 18 years old when he joined the communist rebel movement.
US Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke declined to comment on the resolution Monday.