Khmernews

Put down the burden of the past

Posted by khmernews on November 14, 2007

PRESS RELEASE

“Put down the burden of the past”

PHNOM PENH: “Why did Khmer kill Khmer? Who was behind it? Why didn’t anyone come to help us? This should not happen again. Let us move ahead and we can build a healthy society” – these were some of the questions and sentiments at the centre of a series of public forums organized by the Center for Social Development (CSD) and the Deutscher Entwicklungsdienst (German Development Service, DED). In 2007, dialogues took place in Siem Reap, Mondolkiri, Svay Rieng, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kep, Kampot and Battambang.
The objective: dissemination of information regarding the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and a dialogue about justice and national reconciliation. The forums helped as well to manage the expectations of the participants as to what the Khmer Rouge Tribunal can achieve in terms of peace, justice and reconciliation. According to Theary C. Seng, Executive Director of CSD, “the upcoming trials of the alleged former leaders of the Khmer Rouge are a significant component of this reconciliation process, which CSD addressed through its public forums. We provided a safe venue for open dialogue and discussions amongst the provincial and Phnom Penh participants”.

This year, six forums were conducted, involving eight provinces and 40 districts. This amounted to a total of 857 villagers not including participants from Phnom Penh. Prior to each forum, CSD facilitated ground preparation visits and brought 291 villagers to Phnom Penh to tour the ECCC, Tuol Sleng and Choeung Ek.

At a national conference in Phnom Penh on November 14, CSD and DED gave an overview of the work both organizations did to engage provincial villagers across Cambodia. What are the lessons learned and what are the sentiments of average Cambodians? “We witnessed the passion and continued suffering, the demand for genuine justice and a just peace as well as curiosity regarding the ECCC and the legal process” said Theary C. Seng. For her the dialogue is long overdue, but it is also highly sensitive and emotional. “The goal is to put down the burden of the past, which many have carried silently for too long”, she added.

The Phnom Penh conference marks the first of a 3-year effort to engage Cambodians across the provinces on “Justice & National Reconciliation”.

The central objective of this project is to support mechanisms for the settlement of conflicts and the building of peace in Cambodia. Wolfgang Mollers, Director of DED: “Our major focus is on reconciliation. Together with our partner organization, the Center for Social Development, we helped to inform the public in the provinces, in particular in remote areas, to understand the trial proceedings.  Thus, more and more people will have the opportunity to take part actively and to recount their past experiences”. He adds: “For us the provincial participants are ambassadors, who take what they learn back to their families and neighbours, further raising awareness and hope for justice and peace in Cambodia”.

DED supports the process of reconciliation through a whole set of other activities related to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal as well. These include awareness activities all over the country together with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and a special programme for the youth together with the partner organisation Youth for Peace. Another cooperation with the Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) deals with the care and protection of witnesses. A radio programme from the Women’s Media Centre will be supported by DED as well. It will be broadcasted over large areas of Cambodia and informs about the work of the tribunal. Seminars for journalists and media students teach them how to approach reporting on the tribunal.

DED and CSD
DED is one of the leading European development services for personnel cooperation. It was founded in 1963. Almost 2 000 development experts and local staff are currently working in 45 countries. In Southeast Asia, DED is represented in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Vietnam. The cooperation with Cambodia concentrates on rural development, the health sector and good governance. Right now there are 40 German and other European experts working under DED contract in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

CSD is a non-profit organization based in Phnom Penh that seeks to promote democratic values and improve the quality of life of the Cambodian people through practical research, advocacy, awareness raising and public debate. CSD has been conducting public forums on issues of national concern at the grassroots across Cambodia since 1996.

For further information, please contact:
Ms. Theary C. SENG, Executive Director                                                012.222.552, theary@csdcambodia.org
Mr. IM Sophea, Executive Assistant                                                       016.888.552, sopheaim@csdcambodia.org
Ms. CHUON Sokhunty, Acting Head of Public Forum Unit              016 872 265  sokhunty@csdcambodia.org

P.s. You are kindly invited to visit our newly-updated website at: http://www.csdcambodia.org
________________________________
The Center for Social Development (CSD)
No. 19, Street 57
P.O. Box 1346
Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Tel:  (855) 23.364.735
Fax:  (855) 23.364.736
info@csdcambodia.org
http://www.csdcambodia.org

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