Report: Cambodians have "no knowledge" of Khmer Rouge tribunal
Asia-Pacific News

Jan 21, 2009, 10:46 GMT

Phnom Penh - A report released in Cambodia on Wednesday said 85 per cent of Cambodians had little or no knowledge of the UN-backed tribunal currently putting former Khmer Rouge on trial.

According to the survey - which was conducted by the University of California's Human Rights Centre in September and October - 39 per cent of respondents said they had no knowledge about the tribunal, while 46 per cent said they had 'a little' knowledge about the court.

The findings led the report's authors to call on the Cambodian government, the tribunal and non-governmental organizations to improve their public awareness campaigns.

'One of the main objectives of this report is to ensure victims of the Khmer Rouge are given voice and are brought to the table in the trial process,' co-author Eric Stover told media at the report's launch in Phnom Penh.

The survey put a range of questions about the Khmer Rouge and the tribunal to 1,000 randomly selected Cambodians is all the country's provinces.

The report recommended that the government and the tribunal immediately investigate and resolve allegations of corruption on the Cambodian side of the court, which surfaced last year, and appoint a public education officer to the court.

Tribunal spokeswoman Helen Jarvis said the court welcomed the report but said much of the data collected was 'open to interpretation.'

'This data shows that 15 per cent of respondents had a moderate or higher knowledge of the tribunal, so it could also be understood as showing that 61 per cent had at least some knowledge,' she said.

'This also contradicts an International Republican Institute report that 72 per cent of people had knowledge about the court,' she added.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal was established in 2006 after a decade of negotiations between the Cambodian government and the UN.

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are facing trial for their roles in the deaths of up to 2 million people though execution, starvation and overwork during the ultra-communist regime's rule between 1975 and 1975.

On Monday the court announced the long-awaited trial of former S-21 torture facility chairman Gaing Kak Ev - known by his revolutionary name, Duch - would begin on February 17.

No dates have been set for the four other detainees' trials.

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