Sambath lost both his parents and an older brother to the Khmer Rouge. They were among an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians (around 1 in 5 of the population) who died during the regime of the radical communist movement. The deaths were caused by overwork, starvation, execution and massacre.
Enemies of the People shows the personal nature of that investigation. "I knew my parents and all the other victims died in a terrible way. But I didn't know why they died and no-one could tell me. I wanted to try and find out why all this happened. So I tried to speak to the people who did it. Only the killers know the truth."
Working mostly at weekends, in his spare time, Sambath started his research in 1999 a year after the Khmer Rouge movement collapsed. In 2001 he was introduced to Nuon Chea, formerly the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologue. Over the following years he built an extraordinary level of trust with the retired revolutionary which led to a series of detailed admissions of the most secret and lethal decisions taken by the Khmer Rouge leadership.
Remarkably, Sambath also built up a network of Khmer Rouge perpetrators around the Cambodian countryside who were also prepared to confess to wide scale killings. Before this there had been little or no admission of killing made by any former Khmer Rouge at any level of the organisation.
Fellow journalists have been unstinting in their praise of Sambath's work.
Elizabeth Becker (author of When the War was Over) wrote: "Sambath has accomplished the equivalent of a miracle. Nothing else like Enemies of the People exists in broadcast journalism."
Seth Mydans (South East Asia correspondent of The New York Times): "He's an extraordinarily imaginative and resourceful journalist, traits that are most evident in his brilliant documentary, Enemies of the People."
Patrick Barta of The Wall Street Journal: "Enemies of the People may be one of the most important films about Cambodia ever made. It works not only as a historical document, but also as a work of art in its own right."
Rob Lemkin, Sambath's British film-making partner, said: "The perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields have spoken and are speaking to him because they trust him and because he has persuaded them at the most profound level that it is in their interests and those of their society to speak – no matter how difficult or dangerous it may be for them. This is an astounding achievement."
The trial of Nuon Chea and three other central committee members of the Khmer Rouge starts on Monday 27th June, 2011 in Phnom Penh in a hybrid court set up jointly by the United Nations and the government of Cambodia. The defendants face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. According to Agence France Presse: " The only time Nuon Chea -- the movement's chief ideologue -- admitted the regime's murderous tactics was in the 2009 documentary "Enemies of the People" when he said perceived traitors were killed if they could not be "re-educated" or "corrected".
The Knight Award will be presented to Sambath on November 1, 2011 at the ICFJ Awards Dinner, the biggest international media event held in Washington DC.
A shortened version of Enemies of the People will air on the PBS TV series POV on July 12 at 10pm (local times).
More information at the film�s website: http://www.enemiesofthepeoplemovie.com
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For screenings, grassroots and educational use of the Theatrical Version go to: http://enemiesofthepeoplemovie.com/dvd/educational-dvd/
For downloadable pictures visit: http://www.infc.us/enemies/press.html