"Cambodia: A Quest for Justice"
Film Screening and Panel Discussion

(30 May 2012)

From 1975 until 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist ideologist Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who came to power after overthrowing the Government. His vision was to create a classless utopian society and return Cambodia to its agrarian roots. In the process, he would cleanse the country of all minorities, intellects and those deemed unfaithful to the regime. Almost 2 million Cambodians perished during his reign. The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme partnered with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance New York to examine the issues that led to mass murder during the PolPot regime in Cambodia and current efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. The film screening and round table discussion took place on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 at the Museum.

Distinguished panellists included Andi Gitow and Susan Farkas, co-producers of the film Cambodia: A Quest of Justice; Stephen Mathias, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs; Professor Alex Hinton, Executive Director for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights at Rutgers University; Socheata Poeuv, founder and CEO of Khmer Legacies. 

Maher Nasser, Acting Head, United Nations Department of Public Information, opened the event. Andi Gitow and Susan Farkas presented thier Emmy-nominated United Nations documentary. Through the personal stories of two individuals who survived imprisonment in Tuol Slengprison, or S-21, the film chronicles the suffering of the prisoners and covers the trial of former prison head Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch. He was the first Khmer Rouge leader to be tried by the United Nations-backed international tribunal. In July 2010, judges found Duch responsible for the death of 12,272 lives and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. On 3 February 2012, after hearing Duch’s appeal, the court sentenced him to life in prison. Other Khmer Rouge leaders have yet to be tried.

After the film screening Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs and the Director of the Task Force against Hate and Terrorism for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, introduced the panellists and moderated the discussion.

Stephen Mathias, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, talked about the role of the United Nations in Cambodia and the progress being made in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Professor Alex Hinton, an anthropologist and expert on Cambodia, gave valuable insight into the culture of the country and an understanding of the difficulties that Cambodians are facing in the aftermath of Khmer Rouge regime.

Socheata Poeuv shared her personal story as a child survivor and explained how that experience pushed her to start Khmer Legacies, a project in which children interview their parents about surviving the Cambodian genocide. She talked about the challenges that survivors and their families are facing today. In Cambodian schools students are often not taught about this part of the history and some in younger generation grow up believing that genocide never happened.

Panellists’ presentations followed by a lively discussion with the audience. The film Cambodia: A Quest for Justice is available online.

Press Release: United Nations, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance New York Discuss Justice for Victims of Khmer Rouge (24 May 2012)