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'Enemies of the People' Plays to Academic Crowds

Thet Sambath, filmmaker of the 'Enemies of the People', talking to former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea.
Thet Sambath, filmmaker of the 'Enemies of the People', talking to former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea.

The Khmer Rouge documentary “Enemies of the People” has been selected for a second round in the upcoming Academy Awards and has begun screening coast to coast among the academic community.

The film follows the journey of journalist Thet Sambath as he searches for the truth behind the Khmer Rouge killings, through testimony of low-level soldiers up through “Brother No. 2,” Nuon Chea.

“The academic presentations are really important,” said Rob Lemkin, who co-produced the film with Theth Sambath. “That's because there is a lot of information and a lot of ideas in 'Enemies of the People' and in Sambath's work.”

Thet Sambath spent years building confidence with Khmer Rouge cadre and Nuon Chea, and the film gives vivid description of killings performed in the name of the regime. In it, Nuon Chea says that “enemies of the people” were to be destroyed, lest they subvert the regime's policies.

Nuon Chea, the senior-most leader in custody at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, is currently awaiting trial on atrocity charges.

The film has been screened for professors and students of political science, human rights, law, genocide and Southeast Asian studies over the past weeks.

“The reaction has been, in general, very different from different kinds of people, but all the way across it’s been extremely positive,” Lemkin said, adding that some universities wanted to use the film as part of their education courses.

Christine Su, assistant director of the Southeast Asian Center for International Studies at Ohio University, where the film was screened earlier this month, said it would help promote “Khmer issues.”

For Sinuon Kim, a student at the university, the film showed Nuon Chea's powerful personality. After seeing the film, she said, “I do believe that it's possible that just he and Pol Pot both were the ones who made the decisions.”