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*Kaing Guek Eav, aka “Duch”; Nuon Chea; Ieng Sary; Ieng Thirith; and Khieu Sampan Data on exposure to violence presented earlier in this report are consistent with other studies of serious violations of human rights committed by the Khmer Rouge regime.77 Respondents interviewed in our survey said the Khmer Rouge should be held accountable for killings (80%), starving the population (63%), forced labor (56%), torture (33%), separation of families (14%), absence of freedom of expression (6%), and lack of health care (6%). Respondents had the opportunity to provide more than one response and on average, those who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime provided more answers than those who did not. This pattern of responses reflects the lack of knowledge about what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime among those who did not live through it.

77 Joop T. V. M. de Jong, et al., “Lifetime Events and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 4 Post-conflict Settings,” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) (2001), 286/5: 555–62.

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To better understand what respondents meant by accountability, researchers asked what, if anything, should happen to perpetrators. One in two respondents (49%) said they should be put on trial.

Respondents frequently talked of punishment. Twenty-three percent said they should be punished, 12 percent said they should be put in prison, 12 percent said they should be killed, and 6 percent wanted them to be tortured. Some respondents wanted those responsible to confess their crimes (5%), tell the truth (5%), or apologize (3%).

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The survey results suggest that the Cambodian people want the leaders of the Khmer Rouge who committed atrocity held accountable. Respondents indicated the best mechanisms for the task were the Government of Cambodia and the national court system. However when more specific questions were raised, most of the respondents indicated apprehension towards the national courts.

For respondents, justice meant revealing/establishing the truth (43%) and being fair (37%), enforcing and respecting existing laws (15%), and knowing who is right and wrong (9%). One out of eight respondents could not define justice (13%). Asked more specifically about the Cambodian court system, respondents’ views were somewhat ambiguous. Only 36 percent said they trusted the Cambodian court system and 37 percent said they trusted Cambodian judges. Less than half of respondents agreed with the proposition that justice is the same for everyone (44%), or that Cambodian judges treat everyone equally (40%).

Sixty-one percent said going to court meant paying bribes to judges. Over three-quarters of respondents also said that going to court was too expensive (82%) and that involving the police meant paying a fee (77%). Those results are consistent with established reports on corruption and lack of independence of the judicial sector.78 How Cambodians perceive the national court system may in turn affect how they view the ECCC.

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78 See, for example, Center for International Development & Conflict Management, Polity IV Country Report 2003: Cambodia, and Leuprecht, “Continuing Patterns of Impunity in Cambodia,” 26.

33 SO WE WILL NEVER FORGET The perception of the Cambodian court system may be explained by the respondents’ experience with courts. Eight percent of respondents reported having experienced conflicts or disputes of some sort within their community over a twelve-month period prior to the survey. These conflicts were most frequently related to land issues (41%), domestic disputes (26%), or conflict with neighbors (26%) and were usually resolved by the village chief (55%), the family (31%), or the commune council (28%). The police intervened to resolve the conflict in 8 percent of the cases and provincial courts were mentioned as being involved in 7 percent of the cases.


While respondents viewed accountability as important and frequently wanted to see former Khmer Rouge tried and punished for past crimes, justice was not a priority for most respondents.79 Rather respondents said their priorities were jobs (83%), services to meet basic needs including health (20%), and food (17%). When asked what the priorities of the government should be, justice was again seldom mentioned (2%), with the most frequent answers being the economy (56%) and building infrastructure (48%).

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79 This is consistent with similar findings in conflict situations in eastern Congo and northern Uganda, with basic needs and livelihood concerns superseding justice and accountability as priorities. See Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Eric Stover, Andrew Moss, Marieke Wierda, and Richard Bailey, When the War Ends: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace, Justice and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda and Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham, Suliman Baldo, and Rachel Shigekane, Living with Fear: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace, Justice, and Social Reconstruction in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia When given more specific choices between priorities, three out of four respondents (76%) said it was more important to focus on problems Cambodians face in their daily lives than to address crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime. Over half (53%) of the respondents would rather spend money on something other than the ECCC. Those who did not live under the Khmer Rouge regime said more frequently that spending should be used to tackle current problems compared with those who lived under the regime. This suggests the importance given to the trials at the ECCC is different among those two groups.

Those results do not suggest that the government and international community should not pursue justice for past crimes in Cambodia, but rather highlight the need to invest more broadly in human development, social justice, and the national court system. Indeed, the perception and potential impact of the Khmer Rouge trials would be undermined if they are seen as disconnected from daily concerns and priorities of the Cambodian people. The following chapters examine respondents’ perceptions and attitudes about justice and the ECCC.

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Respondents in our survey said they had little experience with Cambodian courts and often distrusted judges and the courts in general. Before inquiring about perceptions of the ECCC, researchers assessed respondents’ knowledge of it. Nationally, 39 percent of respondents had no knowledge of the ECCC, while 46 percent had only limited knowledge. Respondents who did not live under the Khmer Rouge regime reported more frequently having no knowledge of the ECCC compared to those who lived under the Khmer Rouge Regime (50% and 34%, respectively).

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To better evaluate knowledge about the ECCC, all respondents were asked whether the ECCC was international only, national only or a mixed system with Cambodians and international judges and staff. Nationally, 53 percent of respondents adequately described it as a mixed system.

Respondents who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime were more likely to provide the correct answer compared to those who did not (55% vs. 49%), but they were also more likely to say it was international only (14%).

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia The questionnaire further asked if respondents could accurately state how many people had been arrested and were awaiting trial at the time of the survey. Nationally, only 10 percent correctly answered that five individuals had been arrested and were awaiting trials. A majority simply did not know (54%). Those who provided an answer (46% of respondents) were further asked to name those who had been arrested and were awaiting trial. Many respondents were able to identify Khieu Samphan (57%), Ieng Sary (47%), Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch” (36%), Nuon Chea (35%), and less frequently Ieng Thirith (18%). However, 45 percent also named individuals who were not arrested and awaiting trials and most were unable to name all five (82%). Nationally, when we include those who were unable to say how many had been arrested, this means that only 3 percent of respondents were able to identify the five individuals currently awaiting trial without any errors.

The results show differences between those who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime and those who had not: less than one percent (0.2%) of those who had not lived under the Khmer Rouge regime were able to identify the five individuals awaiting trial compared to 5 percent among those who had lived under the Khmer Rouge.

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The results suggest that knowledge of the ECCC remains limited. Although over half the respondents were able to identify correctly the nature of the court, few were able to provide more detailed information such as the number and names of those awaiting trials. The finding that knowledge about the ECCC was higher among those who lived during the Khmer Rouge regime may reflect a stronger interest to find out about the ECCC among that group. Additional questions examined respondents’ sources of information and contact with programs aimed at informing the public about the work of the ECCC.


Nationally, 64 percent of respondents reported never having heard about the ECCC during the month prior to the survey, 20 percent had heard about it less than once a week, and 15 percent had heard about it once a week or more frequently. Among those who had heard about the ECCC at least once over the one-month period prior to the survey, the main sources of information were radio (80%), television (44%), family/friends (15%), and newspapers (11%). Few respondents heard about the ECCC from posters or booklets (3%), NGOs (3%), or commune councilors (2%).

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Among those who had heard of the ECCC, media were an important source of information. However, respondents seem to be apprehensive about the media. All of the respondents were asked to rank their level of trust in radio, television, and newspapers. Television and radio appeared to be more trusted sources of information than newspapers. In addition, about 41 percent of respondents believe journalists are either extremely or quite a bit free to report openly about social and political issues in Cambodia.

Nearly the same percentage believed that journalists are only “moderately” free to report openly.


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Nationally, 28 percent of all respondents reported having seen specific TV programs about the ECCC, most frequently news reports (45%) and soap operas (16%). One-third of respondents (33%) could not specify the type of program. Although less than a third of respondents had seen TV programs about the ECCC, about all of them (98%) said they would watch the ECCC proceedings if they were broadcasted live on TV.

A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia In addition to exposure to the media, respondents were asked whether they had participated in an activity related to the ECCC over the twelve-month period prior to the survey. Less than 1 percent of those who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime (four individuals) answered positively. None of those who did not live under the Khmer Rouge regime participated in an activity related to the ECCC.

Among those four individuals, two went to public meetings or meetings in the community and two went on a trip to Phnom Penh (Tuol Seng, Choeug Ek and/or the ECCC).


Regardless of whether the respondents lived under the Khmer Rouge regime or not, a majority of them (87%) believe the ECCC should be involved in responding to what happened during the Khmer Rouge regime (KR). Furthermore, a majority of respondents have a positive perception towards the ECCC. About two-thirds believed the judges at the ECCC will be fair and/or that the ECCC is neutral. Among the one-third of respondents who did not believe the ECCC was neutral, 30 percent explained that no proceeding-related results have been achieved, 23 percent believed the ECCC is corrupt (a higher percentage among those who did not live under the Khmer Rouge compared to those who did), 20 percent believed the ECCC is associated with the government, and about 15 percent believe the process is taking too much time. Only those who lived under the Khmer Rouge regime said the ECCC is not neutral because the UN wants to protect the Khmer Rouge (5%) and/or the ECCC is associated with foreign countries (3%).

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Respondents seemed to have high expectations for what the ECCC can achieve. Among those who have at least a little knowledge of the ECCC (61% of the respondents), one fourth (26%) believed that the ECCC would bring justice and one fifth (20%) believed the ECCC would punish those who committed atrocities during the Khmer Rouge regime. However, about a third of respondents (37%) did not know what the ECCC would achieve. Sixteen percent of those who lived under the Khmer Rouge had more frequently no expectations at all or negative expectations such as long trials, no punishment, or unrest compared to 9 percent among those who did not live under the Khmer Rouge.

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The survey further asked more specific questions on the same topic to all respondents. Almost three-quarters (74% of the all respondents) agreed with the statement that the ECCC would bring justice to the KR regime victims and/or their families. Most respondents had defined justice as establishing truth (43%) and being fair (37%). In addition, 71 percent believed the ECCC would help rebuild trust in Cambodia and 67 percent believed that it would help promote national reconciliation.

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A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers In the Courts of Cambodia Furthermore, among all respondents, 68 percent believed that the ECCC would have a positive effect on the victims of the Khmer Rouge and/or their family. Most of those who believe that the ECCC would bring a positive effect explained that the court would sentence people who had committed crimes (37%) and would establish the truth for victims (35%). This is consistent with how they defined justice and their expectation of what the ECCC can accomplish. On the other hand, those who considered that the court would not have a positive impact believed the ECCC would not bring justice (22%), or that it was operating too slowly and that defendants would die before the trial ends (16%). Less than 8 percent mentioned that it would remind victims of the past. About two out of five people could not explain why they believe the court will have a negative impact on the Khmer Rouge victims and/or their family.

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Respondents were given the opportunity to make one recommendation to the ECCC. About 34 percent of those who lived under the KR and 22 percent of those who did not recommended that the ECCC speed up the trials. About 19 percent of those who lived under the KR and about 30 percent of those who did not recommended that the ECCC be fair and independent. Overall, about 11 percent recommended that the ECCC punish those who committed atrocities during the Khmer Rouge regime. Again, these recommendations are consistent with their expectations of the ECCC.

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