ECCC Reparations

This blog is designed to serve as a repository of analyses, news reports and press releases related to the issue of RERAPATIONS within the framework of the Extraordinary Chambers in Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a.k.a. the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Handa Fund's Official Statement on the Disbursement Process


It has been nearly 30 years since the tragedies of the mass murderous regime occurred, there are still shadows of suffering and a need for justice by millions of victims' families who had family members die.

The Khmer Rouge regime left the Cambodian society in bad conditions, thousands of orphans and widows have been struggling to survive these past 30 years. As time passes by everything seems to fade, but recently a generous Japanese philanthropist announce that he is committed to contributing US$100 for some poor families who had relatives killed during the Khmer Rouge. What is this story all about?

An elderly lady name Saray Srean, age 70, who now lives in Pich Ban village in Leach Commune of Kravang district. She lives alone, with no husband or no children. Nearly 30 years after her husband was killed by the Khmer Rouge regime she still struggles to survive. Her only child was killed in the village during the civil war. She added that in 1975, she was moved from Phnom Penh to Koh Thom district in the Kandal province. The Khmer Rouge regime named “Angkar” called her husband for training, however, later she realized that they took her husband to be killed at "Por Tonle Island”. She said that her husband was a journalist in the Lon Nol regime and was accused of being an enemy of Angkar. After the liberation on January 7, 1979 she lived in poor conditions. Now, she is excited about the news that there is a Japanese citizen offering a US$100 donation.

While there are attempts to establish the Khmer Rouge tribunal, a new fund which is comprised from generous donation of the Japanese people and other organizations was established by the University of Cambodia. This fund is designed to compensate victims' families, poor living widows, and those families living in poor conditions. The fund is aimed in a different direction from the Khmer Rouge tribunal which aims to place the top Khmer Rouge Leaders on trial.

The Cambodian people were very surprised to hear about the fund and doubt whether it is true or not? Why is there a fund that aims to do such a thing?

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary of State of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and President of the University of Cambodia said that the purpose of establishing the fund is to help relieve those suffering people including widows and poor families who survived the Khmer Rouge regime. Plus, the fund can be used for ceremony purposes to honor their decease relatives. The donation to victims' families is not related to the Khmer Rouge trial, it is two separate issues. The fund established by the University of Cambodia is named after its principle donor Dr. Haruhisa Handa, Founder and President of the International Foundation for Arts and Culture. The “Dr. Handa Compensation and Memorial Fund for the Victims of Khmer Rouge Genocide” budget total US$1,300,000. Of which US$300,000 is coming from Dr. Handa's personal savings and US$1,000,000 is donated from the Worldmate Organization.

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn said the fund intends to reach 10,000 families including those who are headed by widows, the poor, and the disabled who have managed to survive the Khmer Rouge regime. Distribution of the fund will be difficult because a large number of the Cambodian population were in some ways affected by the Khmer Rouge, whether it was through their mothers, fathers, or grandfathers who were killed by the Pol Pot regime. Of these 10,000 families we will give priority to poor victims, who are widows, and who can prove that they had lived and suffered from the Khmer Rouge regime.

Dr. Kao Kim Hourn added that the distribution of the fund does not require the people to come to Phnom Penh. There will be 4 research teams that will visit the local communities in the 24 provinces during the month of September. After the research we will distribute the donation fund to those who we find most eligible during the month of October, November and December. Dr. Kao Kim Hourn said that we would prefer to offer money, instead of providing materials or equipment. With money people have the flexibility to decide what is appropriate for their families situation, whether it will be allocated for traditional ceremonies or some other activities to improve their living conditions. Distribution of this fund has no political involvement nor is related to the Khmer Rouge tribunal. According to the Royal Government’s policy the distribution of Handa’s Fund will help in poverty reduction.

Cambodian people are aware that the Pol Pot regime were in power from April 17, 1975 to January 7, 1979. The Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 1.7 million people (some statistics said 2 million, some said 1.2 million) and left thousands of widows and orphans who are still suffering today. In the mean time the soul of the decease seem restless because top leaders of the Khmer Rouge have never not been brought to justice.

Those who died nearly 30 years ago died meaninglessly and those who survived are still suffering.

There were supporting actions and thanks for the contribution of US$100 to pay tribute to 10,000 victims' and survivors' families of the Khmer Rouge. However, Dr. Lao Monghai did not support this view. He said if the Japanese offer this donation, it seems that the Japanese people are trying to pay compensation to those who suffered from the Khmer Rouge regime and raise the question whether Japan was involved with the Khmer Rouge or not?

If it is a form of compensation, according to the law it is wrong. Normally, compensation occurs when a wrong doer commits a wrongful act and has to compensate the victim. From his awareness Japan was not involved with the killing of the Cambodian people. He understood that such a contribution is a kind of compensation. From his point of view this donation should be allocated to help victims of HIV/AIDS. He said that this contribution will make a large number of people misunderstand that Japan was involved in the Khmer Rouge regime. It is hard to allocate money to the people since most of the Cambodian people suffered from the Khmer Rouge regime. For example, for a family who had both mother and father murdered during the Khmer Rouge regime and left behind three children living in bad conditions, how do we allocate funding? Who will receive the funding? If there is unequal distribution, it will cause injustice. According to the Dr. Lao Monghai’s analysis, there are good and bad aspects.

According to a Cambodian Red Cross official who spoke anonymously, she expressed gratitude for this project. She thought that any form of contribution geared towards helping to reduce poverty and improve the Cambodian people's standard of living is a good gesture. We should not have pessimistic views toward the donor who has the intention to help the victims' families that were affected by the Khmer Rouge. She thought that we should encourage them and should not criticize them.

An elderly lady named Sambo living in Chong Thnal Kang Kert village, Sangkat Tek Thla, in Rusey Keo district said that she was very happy when she heard that the Handa Fund established by the University of Cambodia will donate to the poor people, widows whose husband had been killed. Ms. Kim Ny, teacher at Santhor Mok High School said that this is a very good gesture because they think and care for the poor people whose families head members were killed by Pol Pot. Ms. Kim Ny added that she would not be disappointed if she is not selected as one of the poor families that deserve the fund.

She said that the donor will be granted good deeds since the money provided will be used for ceremonial purposes to honor the deceased. Although there are many supporters for the distribution of the fund, people do not believe 100% that this will be possible. Supporters views are that it is very strange that after 30 years there is a generous Japanese person who would make such a contribution? Why have big and powerful countries around the world not made the same gesture? And, what about the Royal Government?


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