The delegation will be examining the UN-backed atrocity crimes tribunal, visiting the “killing fields” of the country, and learning what challenges the country still faces in coming to terms with its past.
[Editor’s note: Michael Abramowitz, director of the Genocide Prevention Program at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, will lead a delegation to Cambodia this week. The delegation will be examining the UN-backed atrocity crimes tribunal, visiting the “killing fields” of the country, and learning what challenges the country still faces in coming to terms with its past. The delegation will include Michael Chertoff, former secretary of Homeland Security, and other board members, Abramowitz told VOA Khmer in an interview.]
Are there any planned meetings with officials?
Well, we are definitely going to spend a day visiting memorial sites, Tuol Sleng, etc. We are going to spend a day at the court, and we have a meeting with the prosecutor, some of the judges and some of the lawyers involved in the court, and we will have some meetings with Cambodian senior officials. We have not ironed that out, so I don’t want to say yet. But we have asked for some meetings with senior officials in the Cambodian government. We also expect to meet with Cambodian civil society as well. You know, we’re interested in meeting with people involved in reconciliation, human rights, etc.
Do you have any plans to meet with the victims of the Khmer Rouge?
Absolutely. That was implied in my statement. Definitely, we have arranged to meet with some of the victims who have been testifying in court, in the trial No. 1 with Duch. And we also plan to meet with other victims. We also have been working with the Documentation Center of Cambodia’s Youk Chhang, who has been helping arrange some of our meetings, too.
Currently, are there any displays or exhibits in the Holocaust Museum in Washington about the Khmer Rouge?
There is not right now but we plan to change that. That’s one of the reasons for the trip. That we would like to have a display in the museum about the case and about what happened in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. So we have some material in the museum right now, about, for instance, the Rwandan genocide. And also about Bosnia, but we would like to add to that material about the Cambodian case, because we think that’s one of the most important cases and most significant cases of mass killings since the Holocaust, and we want to be able to educate our visitors about what happened there.
How is the museum funded?
The museum is a public-private partnership. The museum is actually an independent agency of the federal government. About half of our money comes from the federal government and about half comes from private donations.
Is there anything else that you would like to add that I have not asked?
I do think that this is a very significant trip for the museum. We have done previous trips to memorial sites in Europe where the Holocaust happened, to concentration camps and other sites in Europe. But we have never done a trip like this to Asia or really even for another case. So this is a very significant trip for the museum, and we are very much looking forward to it and we really want to learn as much as we can about the terrible events that happened in Cambodia 35 years ago.