Project

Cambodia: Trauma, Justice, Governance

In July 2018, Cambodian national elections consolidated the rule of strongman and former Khmer Rouge cadre Hun Sen, the world's longest-serving Prime Minister, who has controlled Cambodia since overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Under the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population died from execution, disease, starvation, and overwork. Intellectuals were particularly targeted by the regime, and the country lost a generation of professionals such as artists, teachers, doctors, and lawyers. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)—"Asia's Nuremberg"—was established in 1997 to bring accountability for the Khmer Rouge-era genocide and atrocities, but has faltered under Hun Sen and faces closure after his re-election. Philosopher and journalist M.G. Zimeta travelled around Cambodia to report on the consequences for the country's wider development.

This project examines national justice system reform efforts: for many Cambodians, the ECCC has been their first experience of a trial. It also explores the risks and opportunities of frontier medical technology in Cambodia’s low-resource, low-accountability, low-governance setting. Finally, it looks at how rural communities are turning to alternative mechanisms for recovery from collective trauma, such as an innovative group therapy that integrates traditional religious practices with Western psychiatric models.

At the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal—"Asia's Nuremberg"—was created in 1997 to bring accountability for the Khmer Rouge era atrocities. 20 years and $320 million later, it has secured only three convictions.