Coming to terms with Cambodia’s past

Project description

Title: Civil Peace Service: Justice and reconciliation in the aftermath of the KHMER ROUGE Tribunal
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)​​​​​​​
Country: Cambodia
Overall term: 2021 to 2023

Self Help Group with Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO) ©GIZ/ZFD Kambodscha

Context

Even after more than 40 years, coming to terms with the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia remains a challenge. Between 1975 and 1979, around a quarter of the population died as a result of forced labour, starvation, torture and murder. The transitional justice process in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) led to the conviction of three leading defendants. Perpetrators further down the hierarchy did not fall within the jurisdiction of the ECCC and were not held accountable.

Survivors of the regime therefore received only limited satisfaction and justice. It is almost impossible for subsequent generations to form a picture of their country’s past.

Nevertheless, the court proceedings are unprecedented in international criminal procedural law in terms of the unique way victims are involved, represented and compensated.

The Civil Peace Service (CPS) is using the ECCC's results to expand on the approaches developed for processing the past and supporting mental health in Cambodia.

Students and survivors of the Khmer Rouge at a dialogue event of Kdei Karuna (KdK) ©GIZ/ZFD Kambodscha

Objective

Cambodians are taking on the long-term social responsibility for justice – in the context of coming to terms with the past and reconciliation.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh has been an important memorial to Cambodian society since 1979 ©GIZ/ZFD Kambodscha

Approach

The Civil Peace Service is providing support for state and non-governmental partner organisations to allow future generations to fully come to terms with the past of their families and their country. To facilitate this, they are introduced to the methodology and structure of non-violent conflict transformation. CPS promotes a culture of remembrance and supports the integration of the Khmer Rouge past into formal and informal education services. It also provides psychosocial support for survivors and their families.

CPS also promotes and supports training for psychologists, youth radio shows which address the past of the Khmer Rouge, theatre projects in Khmer-Vietnamese communities, and the reduction of violence and discrimination in schools.

Work with the legacy of the ECCC and its structure focuses on documenting memories and contributions from joint plaintiffs and civil society.

Last update: December 2021