Khmer Rouge Trial Reawakens Old Horrors

Three decades after the end of the deadly Khmer Rouge regime, the first of Cambodia's genocide trials has finally begun.

The first sittings of the "Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia," have featured evidence about and testimony from Kang Kek Lew, who is known more widely as Comrade Duch (pronounced "Doik").

Duch has admitted to overseeing the deaths of more than 15,000 Cambodians in the infamous S-21 prison. Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Phnom Penh foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel, who is covering the trials for ABC Online, spoke to her Brisbane-based ABC Radio 612 colleague Steve Austin from her Cambodian base. Daniel tells of the horror that ordinary citizens are reliving as the country’s first of many difficult genocide court cases unfolds.

It's a horror that is all the more acute for local journalists. The Dart Center conducts trainings to help journalists covering traumatic topics, and last year, at the invitation of Deutsche Welle's DW-AKADEMIE,  Dart Centre Australasia conducted a training with local Cambodian journalists who would be covering the Khmer Rouge trial. Cambodian psychiatrist and Khmer Rouge survivor Dr. Sotheara Chhim also helped conduct the training, and three Internews staff members assisted with a half-day panel: Thierry Cruvellier, legal advisor and veteran war crimes reporter, Moeun Chhean Nariddh, respected Cambodian journalist, educator and linguist and Putsata Reang, a Cambodian-American author, journalist and trainer. 

The DCA program was broken into topics:

  1. Trauma and the reporter: Introducing the topics of trauma and resilience with the help of Cambodian psychiatrist and Khmer Rouge survivor Dr. Sotheara Chhim
  2. Self-care: Exploring culturally appropriate strategies for dealing with stress and working with traumatized subjects
  3. Trauma in victims, survivors and the society at large: Viewing and discussing participating journalists' past work and exploring how media can trigger emotional reactions
  4. Telling the trauma story: A panel with Internews staff Thierry Cruvellier, Moeun Chhean Nariddh, and Putsata Reang discussing interviewing trauma survivors in general and covering the Khmer Rouge Genocide Tribunal in particular
  5. Reporting practice: Participating journalists practicing interviewing Khmer Rouge survivors

You can read an overview of Dart Center trainings and other activities online or leave a comment or contact us with any specific questions.