Can Youk Chhang Save the Reputation of His Documentation Angkar?
Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam)’s Deputy Director Vanthan Dara Poeu’s performance in court as a witness cannot be adequately described as a loss of face. It was more like falling flat on his face in a pile of mud, then drying up, being lifted up, put on a flatbed truck and being driven around town for show with a gaunt guy with an American accent standing by him hollering “You don’t get to dictate the rules here, Sir!”. It was painful and scary to watch: painful because it exposed a deputy director who has a very vague idea about what his organization does and how it does it, because all the international money spent to train Dara in the last 16 years has not had the transformative effect it was expected to have, because Notre Dame – a very reputable American school – has joined the ranks of US schools who do not balk at issuing the most advanced non-research law degree (LLM) to persons whose knowledge of the law cannot be adequately described by “do not measure up” and to describe which one would have to get really creative with the language. It was scary to watch because the Court heard from the Deputy Director of the organization which has sought to monopolize the business of Democratic Kampuchea documentation and upon the records of which the prosecution’s case depends heavily and the fact that it has taken at least $50 million to create an archive the structural design of which hardly resembles what one might call an archive in the countries from which the $50 million came, i.e. Mr. Poeu could not answer question about such elementary aspects of data collection as protocol. It has been universally acknowledged that Mr. Poeu did not come across as a witness who had nothing to hide or who was forthcoming with the court. Through Mr. Poeu’s testimony the Court was exposed to what is likely to be the true face of DC-Cam: agenda-driven, closed to outsiders (despite its purported mandate), incompetent and yet arrogant. This institution has been heavily supported by the governments of two countries -- United States and Sweden. If there were a person who pays taxes in both of these countries, he would be very proud. Wait, this person ... but I digress. Thank you, folks, great investment. If only donors had a way of overseeing the manner in which their money is spent and if only there was a contract which permits them to do so we would call it ‘cooperative agreement’ and the clause which permits donors to do this ‘oversight clause’. Ieng Sary Counsel Karnavas’ outrage is appreciated but he needs to understand that this is the first time Mr. Poeu was told that his work was anything other than “brilliant” (quoting a visiting US dignitary who made this compliment without ever bothering to understand how DC-Cam actually ran) and that this reality check had been sorely needed for years and will not be forgotten either by Mr. Poeu or anyone else who deals with DC-Cam from this fateful week in out. Perhaps, if there had been such a position as in-house counsel at DC-Cam, the person in this position would have recommended that Mr. Poeu bring a legal pad and a pen to court, even if preparing Mr. Poeu for this testimony was beyond this person’s powers (which would have had to be considerable and, perhaps, of occult nature as this does not appear to the case where conventional means would have sufficed).
After the fiasco of a testimony put on by Mr. Poeu and clutching at the final straw in attempts to get a coherent, informed and truthful testimony, the TC called DC-Cam’s Director Youk Chhang. If Mr. Chhang’s testimony is going to be as successful as his deputy’s, DC-Cam might be falling on bad times as the repercussions of these testimonies are likely to have a reverberating effect throughout the House that Youk Built. If Mr. Chhang's testimony follows Mr. Poeu's testimony's suit, there is also the interns who can be put to the task of whitewashing his testimony but, hopefully, they have a little more to work with than they had in Mr. Poeu's case and they will tone down the sycophant notes in their rhetoric (guys, we know you are trying but at least write something somewhat similar to what is actually happening in court, not what DC-Cam would like to see happening; unless you are writing stories of the Alternate Universe DC-Cam, then sure, carry on, but do inform the unsuspecting public that this is a comic book project).