The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) marks May 20, 2017 as the annual Day of Remembrance for the Cambodian Genocide. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge regime carried out numerous atrocities including mass executions, displacement, forced labor, and exposure to starvation and disease between 1975 and 1979. The atrocities committed by the regime left approximately 1.7 million individuals dead or more than 20% of the Cambodian population at the time. Commemorative events, like the Cambodian Day of Remembrance, are vital to civic rebuilding and the reconstruction of collective memory during the post-conflict period.
As a part of these efforts, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea (ECCC) were created in 2001 by the Cambodian National Assembly. The country subsequently entered into an arrangement with the United Nations in order to facilitate international support for the ECCC’s proceedings. Since then, over 35 countries, international organizations, and individuals have contributed nearly 300 million USD worth of funding and in-kind services to the courts. As a result, the ECCC has indicted nine individuals and convicted three.
Today, May 20, the Auschwitz Institute remembers the incredible number of those who perished in the horrific genocide that took place in Cambodia. Equally, AIPR recognizes the importance of efforts like the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in post-conflict settings and urges the international community to support initiatives that work towards truth, justice, memory, accountability, and the promotion of the rule of law as tools in the fight against genocide and other mass atrocities.
AIPR’s Director of Academic Programs, Dr. James Waller, explains:
While Cambodia’s post-conflict progress with the ECCC has been remarkable, a recent political crackdown ahead of elections reminds us that complete stability remains elusive. International shifts in policy and rhetoric have reduced the pressure on Cambodia to protect human rights, leaving it up to other groups to keep the government accountable for its actions. This Day of Remembrance is an opportunity to remind ourselves that work remains, and we must rededicate ourselves to the protection and promotion of human rights in Cambodia.