When journalist Thet Sambath began a reporting project 10 years ago to learn answers about the Khmer Rouge from the cadre themselves, he never expected his work would lead to an Oscar short list.
But the documentary that resulted from his work, “Enemies of the People,” has now been short-listed among 14 other films for an Academy Award.
“It’s not the award that we are looking forward to,” he told “Hello VOA” on Monday. “Because I never dreamed of that. We only did it to show the truth, especially to encourage those were who involved in the killing to come out and tell the truth.”
“Enemies of the People,” made in collaboration with producer Rob Lemkin, follows Thet Sambath as he interviews low-ranking cadre about the killing and confronts Khmer Rouge ideologue Nuon Chea about the genocide. The film will show in Washington next month.
“More honest and direct dialogue will help victims and perpetrators understand each other more,” Thet Sambath said. “And the victims will heal more quickly if they from the perpetrators.”
Nuon Chea is now awaiting an atrocity crimes trial at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, along with other senior leaders Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith.
Theth Sambath said he hopes more former killers will now be able to talk about their past crimes in order to help Cambodians heal from the trauma.
“Life punishment means nothing if the person does not confess,” he said, referring to the trials. “Confession and the acknowledgment of one’s own guilt would help more.”