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Public Forum on Justice and National Reconciliation

A public forum which will discuss "justice and national reconciliation" will be held in the northwestern province of Kratie on Thursday.

The forum is organized by the Center for Social Development's (CSD), which has reportedly set up 5 public forums in different provinces since 2000 with the same theme.

More than 20 minority people are invited to participate in the forum, from among 160-180 participants.

The goal is to give the participants a sense of democracy in action through free expression of speech, exhange of views. The target is for national unification, healing, and justice for the victims.

CSD's director, Ms. Seng Theary says while Cambodia is proceeding with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the minority groups from Stung Treng, Ratanakiri, and Mondulkiri provinces, are not informed enough about the trial.

Ms. Seng says that her organization will take advantage of this opportunity to let the minority groups express their opinions, as the population is now focusing on the trial. SCD personnels have gone to the areas, talked to the people, and encouraged them to attend the trial.

The Khmer Rouge tribunal is formed after years of negotiation between is the U.N. and the Cambodian government. The estimated cost of the tribunal will be about $56 million.

The Director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia Mr. Yuk Chhang says that minority people were conscripted into the Khmer Rouge army but they were detained in the notorious Tuol Sleng prison when they were suspected of being Vietnamese agents.

The spokesman for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Mr. Reach Sambath says he is invited to talk at the forum but that he will limit what he has to say so that the people can have more time to express their thoughts. He does not specify whether or not those minority people will be at the tribunal to present their cases or not.

David Scheffer, former United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, urged the Khmer Rouge victims at the May 2006 forum in Kampot province, to write letters to President George W. Bush asking his administration to contribute money for the tribunal.