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A follow-up workshop could focus on how to provide victims and their families a voice in the process of determining the most appropriate reparations and how to deliver reparations in an effective manner.


• Develop a comprehensive plan for promoting discussion in communities where tensions between former Khmer Rouge members and the general population are known to be high. The survey data suggest that a degree of unspoken hostility lingers in some Cambodian communities over the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Studies in other post-war settings indicate trials can further divide communities that have not reconciled their differences. To mitigate the possibility of escalating tensions, community-based discussion should be held before and after ECCC judges render their verdicts.


• Conduct a major review and overhaul of the national criminal justice system that integrates the judicial legacy of the ECCC, ends corruption, and institutes transparency, accountability, and efficacy. The survey data are clear: Cambodians have little faith in their criminal justice system.

The ECCC’s presence could provide the opportunity for donors, nongovernmental organizations, and the Government of Cambodia to come together and tackle this problem in a meaningful and sustainable way. For respondents, justice meant uncovering truth and being fair, enforcing and respecting existing laws, and knowing who is right and wrong. Only a few reported that they rely on the legal system when faced with disputes.

• Continue to work with the civil society to integrate what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime into school history curriculum. As mentioned earlier, Cambodia’s school system has thus far failed to educate young people about the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia

1. INTRODUCTION After a decade of negotiations leading to the adoption of its internal rules in June 2007, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is the first serious effort to bring the law to bear, however belatedly and incompletely, on the horrendous crimes committed by leaders of the Khmer Rouge more than a quarter of a century ago. In power for just under four years (1975 to 1979), the Khmer Rouge more than decimated Cambodia. At least 1.7 million Cambodians, fully one quarter of the population, were killed or died as a result of the oppressive policies imposed by the Khmer Rouge, with execution, starvation, exhaustion from slave labor, malnutrition, and torture as the leading causes of death.

The ECCC faces several serious challenges.1 First, as the latest in a series of tribunals—starting with Nuremberg and culminating most recently with the International Criminal Court—it faces the daunting task of securing criminal accountability for mass atrocities. Supporters and skeptics alike are scrutinizing the ECCC’s performance and judicial legacy. Should it be marred by incompetence, corruption, or political interference or fail to comply with international due process standards, it could jeopardize further attempts to root international justice principles in domestic legal systems.

Second, the ECCC must contend with the passage of time and its tendency to erode the probative value of evidence. The ECCC is investigating and will soon adjudicate alleged crimes committed over thirty years ago. This is complicated for any court, especially a “hybrid court” that combines both national and international legal standards and procedures on the admission of evidence. How will the passage of time have affected the memories of witnesses or their willingness to testify? Can documents linking the accused to the elements of the alleged crimes be secured and verified, and withstand judicial scrutiny? Will the health and age of the five accused affect their ability to stand the rigors of a trial? What will a trial 30 years later mean for survivors?

1 See James A. Goldston, “An Extraordinary Experiment in Transitional Justice,” in Justice Initiatives (New York: Open Society Institute, Spring 2006), 1–6.


Third, it is likely that the ECCC will be the last and only hope for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime to receive formal acknowledgement and recognition of the grave injustices and losses they have suffered. In recent years, Cambodian human rights organizations have amassed an impressive amount of documentation and testimony about the Khmer Rouge period. Yet no serious and systematic attempt has been made to establish a truth-seeking process or other mechanisms for addressing past crimes. Nor have there been any purely domestic trials, beyond the clearly substandard proceedings convened in the immediate aftermath of the Khmer Rouge’s fall.

Fourth, the ECCC faces several internal challenges, including allegations of corruption and lack of independence, transparency, and funding. Since its early beginning, the ECCC has been plagued with allegations of corruption, especially kickbacks on salaries of national staff. 2 Many human rights organizations have raised concerns regarding the potential interference of the government in the ECCC.3 Lack of funding has also been a recurring issue, in part because some critical items were not included in the initial budget. Set at $56 million over three years, it is now estimated that $135.4 million will be necessary through the end of 2010. Several states have already contributed or pledged funds. However, funding will remain on the agenda for the years to come. All of those issues, as well as the overwhelming amount and quality of translation and difficulty in hiring skilled staff have hindered the work of the court and caused delays.

Finally, the ECCC faces the exigencies of great expectations. International and national observers have opined that the court has the potential to establish a more complete historical record of the Khmer Rouge regime and reform Cambodia’s judicial system. As a prominent Cambodian human rights advocate argued in 2006: “Judges [in Cambodia] can learn from the international process—from [the ECCC’s] international judges and their codes of conduct. People may have the opportunity to watch a fair trial and compare it with the trials they have seen in the past, and in the future. If there is a good strategy as to how to introduce the lessons from the court into the Cambodian judiciary, it is to record it, to transcribe it, and to have Cambodian lawyers and judges review this process and examine the record, to train them.”4 Whether or not this expectation can be met will depend heavily on the ECCC’s performance, the Cambodian government’s willingness to institute sweeping judicial reforms, and the extent to which donor governments will continue to bankroll legal programs.

2 Open Society Justice Initiative, “Progress and Challenges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia” (Phnom Penh, Cambodia: The Open Society Institute, June 2007).

3 For example, see Human Rights Watch, “Cambodia: Government Interferes in Khmer Rouge Tribunal,” 5 December 2006, available at http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/12/05/cambod14752.htm.

4 See interview with Thun Saray, President of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, in “No Perfect Justice,” in Justice Initiatives (New York: Open Society Institute, Spring 2006), 111.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia ThE SuRVEy Against this background, the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center and its Initiative for Vulnerable Populations conducted a population-based survey in Cambodia to capture opinions and attitudes about accountability, social reconstruction, and the ECCC. Researchers interviewed 1,000 adult

Cambodians from 9 September to 1 October 2008 with the following objectives:

1. To measure public awareness of the ECCC and outreach and victim participation programs initiated by the court and local nongovernmental organizations;

2. To capture attitudes about the Khmer Rouge regime and the desire for justice and reparations for past crimes;

3. To assess knowledge about and the level of access of Cambodians to the national criminal justice system; and

4. To recommend ways in which the ECCC, Cambodian judicial and administrative institutions, civil society, and the international community can ensure that Cambodians become engaged participants in—and not merely auxiliaries to—the work of the court.


Respondents for the survey were randomly selected among all adults (18 years of age or older) who are residents of Cambodia. A four-stage cluster sampling strategy was designed to ensure that results would be representative of this population. The sampling frame used for the survey was the Cambodia General Population Census 2008 Village’s database prepared by the National Institute of Statistics, Ministry of Planning.5 The survey took place in two stages. During the first stage, researchers randomly selected 125 communes out of 1,621 using systematic random sampling proportionate to population size.6 At least one commune was selected in each of the 24 provinces of Cambodia. During the second stage, researchers randomly selected two villages from each commune using a simple random sampling procedure proportionate to population size, resulting in a sample of 250 villages. Within each village, four households were randomly selected using linear systematic sampling with equal probability of selection. Finally, within each household, a Kish grid was used to select one household member at random for an interview.7 The total expected sample size was 1,000 individuals.

5 See http://www.stats.nis.gov.kh/index.htm.

6 Communes (Khum) are an administrative division regrouping villages.

7 The Kish grid is a selection method in which all eligible participants are ordered by sex and age and assigned a number.

Interviewers use a selection table to randomly select a number and the corresponding eligible participant is interviewed.

–  –  –

Interviewers attempted to contact randomly selected respondents three times over the course of a day.

If a selected respondent could not be interviewed or refused to participate, the next randomly selected respondent was approached.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia One-on-one interviews were conducted anonymously in a confidential setting at or near respondents’ dwellings. A standard consent form was used to present the project (i.e., university-based research not affiliated with the government), stress the confidentiality of the responses, and inform respondents of the voluntary nature of their participation (i.e., no compensation was provided, they were given the option to refuse to answer or stop the interview at any time).8 Interviewers used a structured questionnaire covering nine topics including (1) demographics;

(2) needs and priorities; (3) justice and rule of law; (4) the Khmer Rouge regime; (5) the ECCC’s outreach efforts; (6) knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of the ECCC; (7) establishing a historical record, truth telling, and reparations; (8) exposure to violence; and (9) mental health (results not discussed in this report). The instrument was first developed in English and then translated into Khmer. Back-translation and consultation with local experts ensured the quality of the translation.

The questionnaire was pre-tested with 60 randomly selected respondents in non-study sites to ensure that the instrument was culturally adapted and easily understandable to respondents.

The data collection was conducted in partnership with the Center for Advanced Study, a Cambodianbased, nonprofit survey research organization. A total of 25 experienced Cambodian interviewers and supervisors organized in five teams conducted the interviews. The interviewers and supervisors participated in a five-day training to familiarize themselves with the questionnaire; interview techniques, including non-suggestive probing; and selection of respondents. The training included discussion of the study objectives and concepts, mock interviews, and survey pilot. This procedure enabled trainers to improve the survey instrument and identify and improve the weaknesses of interviewers. In the field, supervisors provided oversight to ensure proper execution of household sampling procedures, as well as uniform application of the research protocol. To reduce data collection errors, interviewers checked the survey instrument for completeness and entry errors before leaving the selected household. A second check was performed by the supervisor. The average estimated interview time per questionnaire was one hour and forty-five minutes. Finally, researchers analyzed data using the Statistical Package for Social Science version 16.0.


While the study was conducted as rigorously as possible, some limitations must be acknowledged.

First, the survey contained questions related to events that took place over 30 years ago. For respondents, the passage of time could have resulted in recall errors or created certain biases. However, we developed several questions to test the validity of their responses. These questions are discussed in further detail in the results and the discussion sections below.

8 The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects of the University of California, Berkeley. The Cambodian Ministry of Interior and local authorities in sampled villages approved the study but were not involved in the design of the study or in the analysis and presentation of the results.

11 SO WE WILL NEVER FORGET Second, while three attempts were made to contact selected respondents, not all selected individuals could be interviewed due to the limited time spent in each village. In the end, 147 households (13% of all households) had to be replaced because no one was home (76%), no one was eligible (14%), all members refused to be interviewed (5%), or no one was available (5%). In addition, within selected households, 297 individuals (23%) had to be replaced by the next randomly selected individual within the same household because the respondent was not home (85%), refused to participate in the interview (13%) or because the interview could not be completed (2%).

Third, the data collection for the survey started on 9 September 2008, two weeks after Co-Prosecutors appealed the Closing Order of the trial of Kaing Guek-Eav (alias “Duch”) issued by the Co-Investigating Judges on 12 August 2008. The delay caused by the appeal may affect how respondents view the ECCC. Because views and attitudes are influenced by local and contemporaneous events (such as media coverage), the views expressed in this report present only a snapshot at the time of the survey.

Finally, while the survey questions were finalized following piloting and in-depth consultations with local experts on terminology, respondents were free to interpret the questions according to their own perceptions of the terms used. Careful choice of phrasing and translation reduced the risk of misinterpretation of the questions.


The remainder of the report consists of six chapters. Chapter 2 provides background on the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge, the establishment of the ECCC, and the role of local nongovernmental organizations in court-related activities. Chapter 3 sets out the demographics for the survey. Chapter 4 examines how survey respondents experienced and perceived the Khmer Rouge regime, as well as their knowledge of its policies. Chapters 5 and 6 present respondents’ views about the need for justice and truth telling and their attitudes about the ECCC. And, finally, Chapter 7 presents our conclusions and recommendations. These are also summarized in the Executive Summary.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia

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