Radio

Radio programming is an important means of outreach to Cambodian people throughout the country. The majority of Cambodians, especially survivors of the Khmer Rouge period who live in predominantly rural areas, have little access to print and news media. Thus, radio remains a culturally popular medium and is often the sole source of national news and information for many Cambodians. The reliance of citizens, especially rural citizens, on radio broadcasts can lead to the manipulation of public perception when the radio messages are used for purposes of political propaganda. In general, because of this risk, the creation of accurate and objective educational programming remains a pressing need in Cambodia.

Since 2002, DC-Cam has been reading selected articles from Searching for the Truth magazine and portions of such books as Anne Frank’s Diary on a local radio station, Women’s Media Center (WMC), FM 102, which reaches many Cambodian provinces. DC-Cam has produced a radio program on this station two times a week. In addition, our staff members have been guest speakers on an FM 102-hosted talk show which focuses on the Khmer Rouge.

In 2005, DC-Cam expanded its broadcasts to Battambang (also covering portions of Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat and Pailin), Kampong Cham, Sihanoukville and Svay Rieng. We explored various radio formats, such as forums and listener hotlines, to encourage audience participation in discussions of issues related to Democratic Kampuchea. In order to increase the cost-effectiveness of our programming, we opened a new studio at DC-Cam, enabling us to prepare high-quality, pre-recorded tapes and send them to provincial radio stations.

Early in 2008, DC-Cam discontinued broadcasting on WMC, FM 102, since the station now produces its own program about Khmer Rouge history. However, DC-Cam continues to read selected articles from Searching for the Truth, and the publication, Brother Enemy, A History of Democratic Kampuchea (1975-1979), for Kampot Station, and works with VOA (Voice of America Radio).

In 2012, DC-Cam initiated a new radio program entitled “Voices of Genocide Survivors (VoG): Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the ECCC,” which explores the famine which occurred during the Democratic Kampuchea regime. The goals of this program are to provide survivors with legal and historical narratives of a major and often-overlooked source of suffering and mortality under the Khmer Rouge and to provide a common platform for survivors of the Cambodian genocide to share their individual experiences. Through these specific goals, the program aspires to contribute to the larger objective of reconciliation and justice in Cambodia. In total, the VoG project will produce ten episodes, each discussing an aspect of the famine during the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. Each episode will be broadcast and re-broadcast as widely as possible throughout Cambodia each month. Moreover, after the initial broadcast, the program will be combined into an anthology and shown throughout Cambodia to highlight the issue of famine, utilizing program episode replays at public forums. These forums will be hosted at sites historically relevant to famine under the Khmer Rouge regime and will engage local survivors, students and community leaders in order to foster community engagement. DC-Cam plans to make the archived radio program series freely available to the public and researchers seeking more information on the Khmer Rouge famine and/or associated legal issues.

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program Pilot (Episode #1):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Background and Introduction

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lon Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, March 2013

Greetings from the radio MC to the audience followed by a brief overview of the radio program (program will consist of a series of broadcasts discussing the Khmer Rouge period famine and the ECCC). Then discuss translation, introduce people involved and Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) along with any other preliminary matters.

During the period of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) in Cambodia from 1975-1979, direct violence was not the only sources of death and suffering for the civilian population. Miserable living conditions, famine, overwork and untreated diseases were also major causes of suffering and death.

However, when discussion of the DK period turns to individual criminal accountability at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC, potential crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge (KR) tend to focus mainly on instances of direct physical violence, such as torture and mass executions. The Court also clearly is struggling to move fast enough to reach a judgment in its second case against the most senior Khmer Rouge leaders still alive: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan. Already Ieng Thirith has been dropped from Case 002 because she was found unfit to continue with the trial with dementia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. More recently, all three of the remaining accused have been hospitalized with ailments such as breathing problems, high blood pressure and bronchitis and are over eighty years old. Therefore, another reason the ECCC may focus more on issues that are less complicated than famine is that the Court is in a race against time. If the Court attempted to address famine issues, it would take a lot of time to develop the necessary facts and argue the law, increasing the chances that some or all Case 002 accused would die before judgment.

Aside from these time considerations, crimes predicated on the terrible living conditions in DK and/or famine can be marginalized or ignored altogether because it is easier to assign blame for prisons, violence, executions and mass graves than complex increases in mortality from a combination of living condition factors. This focus on violent crimes is typical of international tribunals and most likely occurs because violent crimes fit neatly within existing legal paradigms. Violent crimes are also typically easier to prove than crimes predicated on general living conditions. For example, in the case of the KR, documentation from the DK period clearly establishes that KR leaders authorized the “smashing” (killing) of perceived political enemies and the Cambodian countryside is littered with mass graves of executed victims, providing powerful proofs.

When it comes to possible famine-based crimes however, issues of causation and individual responsibility can become complex and hard to untangle, as deadly famines, including the DK famine, typically involve complex interactions between food production, government policy, armed conflict and the spread of famine-related diseases.

To date, no internationalized criminal court or tribunal has entered a conviction predicated specifically on causing mass famine. Nonetheless, many of these same courts have touched on the issue of famine or recognized the illegality of knowingly starving a civilian population. Also, when famine is forced on a civilian population, the famine may involve well-established international crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity and/or war crimes.

If the ECCC did decide to address the difficult issue of famine, Case 002 would probably be the best opportunity for the Court to do so. While this is unlikely, because the three accused in the Case: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan are all elderly and in poor health and the Court has decided to pursue more traditional crimes of direct physical violence thus far, these three accused represent the most senior former Khmer Rouge officials alive today. As senior officials, these three individuals appear to have had national authority during the DK period and may have assisted in the creating policies that caused famine. However, only through a full trial and careful analysis of the available evidence could the roles of each of these accused and their potential criminal responsibility for causing famine be determined.

This radio program is the first in a series that explores the possible legal consequences at the ECCC of the deadly famine that occurred during the DK period under the KR. The program will examine how the DK period famine occurred and explore key famine causing policies of the KR leadership. Additionally, this program will highlight the possible legal issues and challenges posed should the ECCC explore the issue of famine in Case 002.

The KR and Key Famine Policies

Survivors of the DK period can all vividly remember their individual experiences of hunger and starvation. However, few survivors have been provided with any explanation of how famine progressed in DK and the national policies responsible.

Famines are rarely disasters caused by a single factor or reason and this is true with the case of the famine in DK.

When the KR took over Cambodia in 1975, the nation’s rice crops in some areas had been severely decreased for five years due to the ravages of the civil war. However, some of Cambodia’s most important rice-producing areas, most notably surrounding Battambang in the Northwest which is considered the country’s rice bowl, escaped the war mostly undamaged.

The regime immediately emptied Cambodia’s cities, sending urban people to live as rice farming peasants in the countryside. One of the official explanations for this evacuation, stated by Ieng Sary himself, was the fact that there was no food in Phnom Penh. The regime claimed that the food problem would be solved by increasing food production by sending everyone to work in cooperative farms. Many evacuees were sent to Battambang province because the regime believed that the area could produce much higher rice yields with additional labor force. The KR argued that an agricultural push would make up for the lost food aid that had resulted from the KR expelling all foreign agencies, including food donor programs. However, this plan failed and living conditions were among the worst in areas of the country, such as Battambang, flooded with evacuees and subjected to high rice quotas.

Instead of revolutionizing DK along a realistic time scale however, the new regime decided that Cambodia would make a “super-great leap forward” in agriculture incredibly fast. KR leaders stated at party meetings that the revolutionary zeal and purity of the regime could be harnessed to nearly triple Cambodia’s average rice yield, from slightly over 1 ton per hectare to 3 tons per hectare.

The plan to increase rice output dramatically is outlined in most detail in the KR’s unpublished, 1976 “Four Year Plan.” In the Four Year Plan, the KR planned to reach and even surpass a national average 3 tons per hectare within a few years.

The regime planned to use the large amount of rice it planned to produce to feed its revolutionary army and as the main source of trade income, which would be used to finance all revolutionary goals. The KR leaders in documents stated that rice production was key to supporting the army and defending DK against Vietnam, therefore growing rice was seen as a crucial aspect of national defense.

The regime ignored the numerous difficulties facing it, including the lack of existing irrigation infrastructure, modern machinery, skilled labor and pesticides necessary to achieve such a massive increase in productivity. Instead, the KR leaders ordered that through sheer revolutionary effort, the nation would build its own irrigation systems and develop new and better ways to grow rice.

The KR ordered that to overcome all difficulties, the civilian labor force would have to “attack” rice production as if fighting a war. The result of the unrealistic demands of the KR leadership and lack of equipment was that civilians were forced to work long, hard hours every single day throughout the countryside.

Every calculation of the KR leadership was based on the incorrect assumption that 3 tons per hectare average rice yields would be achieved nationally. However, it quickly became clear that 3 tons per hectare was an impossible amount to achieve. Nonetheless, the KR leadership pushed forward with its plans and refused to admit any mistakes or slow the pace of its revolution. The regime even raised its already- impossible quotas in fertile areas, such as around Battambang to up to 5 tons per hectare in an attempt to cover shortfalls in planned production.

The regime took massive amounts of rice from the country’s cooperative storehouses to feed the military and trade to North Korea and China. A foreign commerce trade account was set up for the DK government in Hong Kong, financed by the Chinese government. This financing was necessary because the KR had banned money completely.

While the KR were sending civilians to work long hours in the fields to produce rice for party use, the regime was simultaneously placing extreme restrictions on basic freedoms of workers within cooperatives.

After taking power, the regime announced that there was no longer any private property recognized in the country and therefore everything belonged to the revolutionary organization (Angkar Padevat). This included all wild food and animals. During previous famines in Cambodia, massive starvation was avoided because the civilian population could turn to the abundance of wild food sources throughout the countryside and in the jungle. However, under the KR, a starving civilian risked imprisonment, a beating or even execution for simply taking a fish from a pond or coconut from a tree to feed himself or his family.

By 1977, communal eating was enforced throughout Cambodia and the private backyard plots of food crops that had been common in Cambodia for centuries as sources of supplemental food had been completely eliminated. This meant that the only place where civilians were allowed to eat was in the cooperative dining hall. Therefore the workers relied completely on government rations for nourishment.

Famine Crimes in DK and the ECCC

It is irrefutable that hundreds of thousands of people died from famine, overwork and treatable diseases in DK. However, it is unclear whether the acts of the KR leaders who presided over this deadly famine, were punishable as crimes under the jurisdiction of the ECCC.

In previous interviews, some of the accused in Case 002 have claimed that the civilian death toll in DK was exaggerated and that problems with living conditions, such as famine, were not the fault of the central leadership. Instead, they have argued that any famine that occurred was the result of the difficult situation the KR inherited after fighting a five year civil war and mistakes by lower-level party officials in interpreting the party line.

For example, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan have previously publicly stated that one of the reasons Phnom Penh was evacuated in 1975 was because there was no food left in the city and the country was already facing famine because of the civil war and the Lon Nol regime. Future episodes will explore the reasons and legal defenses each accused has given when claiming that they are not responsible for famine deaths in DK.

Experts and legal scholars have stated that in certain circumstance powerful individuals or groups who cause deadly famines can be held criminally responsible. While there is no specific international famine crime, this responsibility could theoretically be in the form of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. All three of these crimes are charged in Case 002.

Within the context of the ECCC, it appears that crimes against humanity are the best- suited source of famine-related charges. Nevertheless, obtaining convictions for famine crimes at the ECCC could prove difficult, due to the lack of clear legal 

precedent and the complex issues of proof and causation previously discussed. Indeed, as of now, the ECCC has focused primarily on violent crimes in Cases 001 and 002 and it is unlikely that additional topics, such as famine will be addressed moving forward. As such, this radio program is designed to provide some basic information on famine under Khmer Rouge and related legal issues in order for the Cambodian public to discuss their views on famine and justice in a structured and informed format.

Future broadcasts will explore various specific legal issues associated with famine and ECCC Case 002. Each broadcast will also provide stories of famine survivors, who will personally share their experiences of hunger and starvation during the DK period. Finally, each broadcast will conclude by answering listener questions related to famine and ECCC proceedings.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

(Khmer language)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program Pilot (Episode #2):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, April 2013

This is the second episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participate in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or the law.

This episode focuses on historical beginnings of the famine under the Khmer Rouge, the concept of “excess mortality“ and reasons why it is very difficult for researchers to determine how many people died because of the famine in Cambodia from 1975- 1979. Next month, this program will address the issue of knowledge among the Khmer Rouge leadership about famine when it happened. In doing so, the next episode will attempt to answer the key question of whether the top Khmer Rouge leaders knew that their policies were starving the people.

Updates from the ECCC
Prior to this episode’s discussion of famine and mortality in Cambodia, there are some important recent developments at the ECCC worth mentioning. First, the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber overturned the Trial Chamber’s decision to divide the Court’s main case, Case 002, into a series of smaller trials. While the Supreme Court Chamber did not find that any division of the case would necessarily be improper, the judges held that the Trial Chamber had not provided sufficient reasons to justify its decision to divide Case 002 into a series of trials and to focus exclusively on the Khmer Rouge regime command structure and crimes related to forced evacuations in

the first trial and ordered the Trial Chamber to reassess both its reasoning. The Trial Chamber is currently in the process of doing so and its revised decision on division of Case 002 will have important ramifications for all parties. The prosecution has argued that the charges related to S-21 prison should be covered in the first Case 002 trial, while the defence has opposed the addition of any charges. The decision will also affect civil party applications greatly, as only civil party applicants who can demonstrate that the harm they suffered is related to the issues being covered in the first Case 002 trial will enjoy official civil party status, while others will be forced to wait until the unlikely event that additional trials take place. Meanwhile, as this issue plays out, the health of all three Case 002 accused remains precarious and Nuon Chea has been in and out of the hospital recently, highlighting the need for the trial to move forward expeditiously. On March 14, 2013, Ieng Sary, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister, passed away at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital due to illness.

Introduction: The Khmer Rouge Take Power with the Promise of Food for Everyone
To talk about food in Cambodia is to talk mostly about rice, as a large percentage of the overall food eaten by Cambodians consists of rice. Therefore, throughout this radio series, when food production is discussed, the emphasis will be on the production of rice. In the early 1960’s Cambodia enjoyed a steady increase in overall rice production. 1963 and 1964 produced two record rice harvests in a row and Cambodia exported surplus rice in large quantities. This surplus vanished in the second half of the 1960s, as large quantities of Cambodian rice were smuggled into Vietnam and sold to both warring factions in the civil war going on there, although production appears to have remained high. When Cambodia descended into civil war in 1970, the rice crop predictably suffered. Planting, harvesting and processing rice activities were all decreased because of the fighting between the Lon Nol government and rebel forces, which became to be known as the Khmer Rouge. The massive bombing campaign of the United States in support of the Lon Nol regime further reduced Cambodia’s agricultural production because it devastated the countryside by killing farmers and work animals and destroying croplands.

During the civil war, the Khmer Rouge knew the importance rural Cambodians placed on agricultural issues and food production and claimed that their revolution would bring a new era of agricultural prosperity in Cambodia and with it an abundance of food. For example, in a 1973 propaganda film shot in “liberated” Kampong Cham province, Khmer Rouge representative Khieu Samphan leads a visiting delegation from North Vietnam on a tour of a model collective farm where food is shown to be everywhere in large amounts. The workers in the cooperative smile for the camera as they thresh rice and perform other chores and they appear healthy and well fed.

This propaganda, along with promised land reforms to give poor farmers more land, were among the many reasons why the Khmer Rouge movement became popular among many rural peasant farmers. This popularity and control of Cambodia’s food producing areas helped the Khmer Rouge achieve victory by stopping food supplies from entering areas controlled by Lon Nol forces.

The Khmer Rouge defeated the Lon Nol government and took control of Phnom Penh on 17th of April, 1975. Within a week, Phnom Penh was almost completely evacuated. The exact reasons for the evacuation orders remain unclear to this day. Publicly, Ieng Sary, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs for the Khmer Rouge regime, claimed that the forced evacuation was due to a lack of food to feed Phnom Penh’s large wartime population, saying that “[t]he problem was to find ways to feed these people by our own means.” He also claimed:

“[t]his problem has brought us tremendous experience, experience that makes us determined to increase our food supply. Although there is not now a great quantity, there is enough to feed one another. Today, people are working in the countryside and participating in productive activities.“

Additionally, Khieu Samphan, who was the Prime Minister in the new Khmer Rouge state, which was renamed “Democratic Kampuchea,“ claimed to the press in August of 1975: “[i]t is not an abundance, but we have been able to solve the essential problem [of feeding the people].”

At this point, the Khmer Rouge had complete control over all of Cambodia and the stage was set for them to deliver on the promise of a new Cambodia with food for everyone. However, instead of proceeding to systematically rebuild their war-torn nation, the new regime attempted to rapidly transform Cambodia into self-sufficient and completely pure socialist state. This emphasis on complete self-reliance and speed resulted in a massive famine that killed at least 800,000 Cambodian people by January of 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded and removed the Khmer Rouge from power.

Khmer Rouge Famine Policies
After taking power, the leaders of the Khmer Rouge held a meeting in Phnom Penh in May of 1975. During this meeting important party policies were outlined, including plans for high-level cooperatives, the abolishment of money and the establishment of communal eating and living.

At a later meeting Pol Pot is recorded as stating that the Khmer Rouge had:

“decreed that the country must be built, and that socialism must be built, as rapidly as possible, taking [Cambodia] from a backward agriculture to a modern one in five to ten years, and from an agricultural base to an industrial one in between fifteen to twenty years.“

Along these lines, the Khmer Rouge announced that Cambodia would achieve a “Super Great Leap Forward” and thereby rapidly transform into a model socialist state. The Khmer Rouge leaders relied on agriculture as the source of national income to support the Super Great Leap Forward and at a Khmer Rouge meeting it was stated:

“we stand on agriculture in order to expand other fields; industries, factories, metals, oils, etc. The basic key is agriculture. Self-reliance means capital from agriculture.“

The Khmer Rouge planned to increase rice production to nearly three times the previous record crop, to a national average of three tons per hectare of cultivated land. These production goals were virtually impossible, as Cambodia had never even approached this level of production and had just emerged from a brutal five year civil war.

To help achieve these new massive increases in rice production, the Khmer Rouge tried to solve what they called the “water problem” in Cambodia, by creating a national system of dikes, canals and dams to capture, store and redistribute seasonal monsoon rainwater year-round. The regime however, did not have the money, expertise or machinery to create such a massive national irrigation system and instead relied on human labour and built many dams that did not operate well or simply collapsed.

While the people were put to hard work to try and achieve three tons per hectare, they also had their food rations decreased in order to save rice for regime uses.

Officially, every Cambodian under the Khmer Rouge was supposed to receive a ration of 13 thang of paddy rice per person, each year (equivalent to approximately 312 kilograms or 0.85 kilograms per day). In reality, very few people ever received this ration, even for a short time and most people received rations that were much smaller, consisting of a single ladle of watery rice porridge two times per day. Nevertheless, the Khmer Rouge leaders were optimistic and stated that soon, when the revolution began to succeed, the people would be “nourished with snacks” and therefore be “happy to live in this system.” This never occurred and rations decreased more and more throughout the Khmer Rouge period, leading to increasing numbers of deaths from starvation and associated diseases.

How Starvation Kills
During famines, people rarely die of complete starvation. Instead, death from famines comes in many different ways. People become weak after they begin to starve and diseases often begin to spread as people travel in search of food. Also, people often turn to unfamiliar, barely edible food sources during famines, which can lead to stomach problems which make the famine worse. All of these factors were present in Cambodia during the famine under the Khmer Rouge.

The population of Cambodia was already weakened by the five year civil war leading up to the Khmer Rouge period and there was not a lot of food in the country. Next, when the Khmer Rouge took power, they forced hundreds of thousands of people to relocate to distant parts of the countryside. These transfers contributed to the spread of diseases as weakened people came into contact with one another. Next, general living conditions under the Khmer Rouge were extremely harsh. People were exposed to the weather and basic sanitation, such as toilet systems, were lacking in many areas. Many people were also so exhausted from the combination of overwork and insufficient food that they became too weak to bathe regularly or maintain their hygiene. This also led to the further spread of disease. Finally, there was no health care system to speak of under the Khmer Rouge. Thus, once famine diseases began to spread, there was no modern medicine available to slow down the spread of disease.

Experts appointed by the ECCC estimated in 2009 that during the Khmer Rouge period somewhere between 800,000 and 1,300,000 Cambodian people died of non- violent, but non-natural causes. These are referred to as “excess deaths“ which means they are the number of deaths beyond the normal number of people who die each year from natural causes such as disease and old age. A large portion of these deaths were the result either directly or indirectly, from famine and associated living conditions. This large variation in the number of estimated deaths is typical of famine situations, as record-keeping is often very bad and the cause of death for victims is not recorded, resulting only in educated guesses about how many people actually died from each famine. However, according to one famine historian, the estimated “rate of excess mortality“ during the Cambodian famine under the Khmer Rouge is the highest death rate during any famine since the Irish potato famine of 1846-1852.

Thus, certain conclusions can be drawn from the available information on the Khmer Rouge famine in Cambodia. First, while some famine may have been the result of the civil war prior to the Khmer Rouge coming to power, the policies of the Khmer Rouge regime clearly made the famine much worse than it would have been without their policies being in place. Second, there is a close relationship between deaths from disease and deaths from famine under the Khmer Rouge, as the spread of disease regularly follows the beginning of a famine. Third, once the famine became bad in Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge did nothing to change their policies that had cause the 

famine. In fact, it appears that the central leadership of the Khmer Rouge simply made their policies stricter, which only made the famine worse. Fourth, at the very least, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died specifically because of famine in Cambodia. At the high end, upwards of one million people may have died due to famine-related causes. Finally, in terms of the percentage of the population which died, the famine in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge appears to have been the most intense of any famine of the 20th Century.

This concludes episode 2 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Pechet MEN, Team Leader of Radio Project. For questions, answers will be provided and broadcast during the next episode of the program, which will explore how famines progress and become more deadly and compare this to the evolution of the famine in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #3):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, May 2013

This is the third episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participate in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or the law.

This episode focuses on the key issue of how famines evolve, how this compares to the famine in Cambodia and also how much the Khmer Rouge central leadership knew about the famine that was happening in Cambodia when it happened. This last question is crucial to determining whether the policies enforced by the Khmer Rouge leaders are accurately described as crimes or mere non-criminal mistakes. Next month, the program will focus on the crime of genocide and explore whether genocide can ever be committed through causing famine. Episode four will also comment on whether the Khmer Rouge period famine in Cambodia could be accurately described as a genocide.

Updates from the ECCC
Prior to the beginning of episode #3’s discussion of famine in Democratic Kampuchea and what Khmer Rouge leaders knew about it at the time, there are some major events that should be mentioned recently at the ECCC.

On 14 March 2013, ECCC Case 002 co-accused Ieng Sary died from old age and disease. His death reduces the number of accused in Case 002 to two individuals Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan – as Ieng Sary’s surviving wife, Ieng Thirith has already been declared unfit to stand trial due to suffering dementia likely brought on by Alzheimer’s disease. Ieng Sary’s death prior to the ECCC issuing a trial judgment in his case means that he will be removed from Case 002 immediately and no judgment will ever be issued based on his involvement in the Khmer Rouge. Also, because both Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith have been officially removed from Case 002, there is now no way that any of their considerable wealth can be used to help fund reparations projects ordered by the ECCC. Finally, now that only two accused remain in Case 002, pressure to move the case forward expeditiously has increased, especially because Nuon Chea’s health remains fragile.

Introduction: How Famines Spread and Coping Mechanisms
As discussed in episode 2, when a person suffers from severe lack of food it affects their body in many ways. The victim becomes weak and vulnerable to disease and eventually their physical and mental abilities deteriorate.

When famine spreads among a population, this deterioration of individuals is reflected in a breakdown of societies. During periods of severe famine throughout history, victims have resorted to desperate measures in attempts to survive, resulting in societal breakdowns and violations of fundamental societal moral values. For example, during famines parents often voluntarily sell themselves or their children into slavery, hoping that by doing so more food will be made available to them. During the Democratic Kampuchea period famine, many civilians who were desperate for food sought to join the Khmer Rouge, despite the fact that the regime had brutalized them, believing that this might provide access to better food rations. Also, near the end of the Khmer Rouge period, the party announced that membership in the revolutionary army would be opened up to new classes of people, who were previously ineligible because they did not have a “clean” revolutionary background. Many victims volunteered to join the military at this time and go to the front lines to fight against the Vietnamese solely for the opportunity to receive slightly better food rations.

Suicide rates also regularly rise during periods of famine and this appears to have been the case in Cambodia as well. When famine becomes extreme and long enough, even more desperate actions may take place, such as cannibalism and killing one’s own children to spare them the suffering of starvation. Survivors of the Khmer Rouge period have also reported that these unthinkable actions took place as well.

Usually during famines, along with people committing unthinkable acts out of desperation, affected populations also take predictable actions to try and minimize the harm of a famine. Thus, during famines, victims will turn to so-called “famine foods” which are things that are usually not eaten, but considered barely edible. Victims also typically travel a lot during famines, searching for places where more

food is available. This usually results in people spreading out and finding every food resource available within an famine-affected area. Under the Khmer Rouge however, these coping actions were impossible. The official policy of the Khmer Rouge forbid private cooking or eating and stated that everything in the country was the property of the revolution and thus, could not be taken without permission. People were also forbidden from moving around freely to search for food. As a result, victims of famine in Cambodia faced the decision of whether to secretly find extra food or rely on the insufficient rations provided by the Khmer Rouge in communal kitchens. Those who decided to secretly search for more food risked extreme violence or even execution if they were caught. There are many surviving Khmer Rouge documents which describe people being arrested for “stealing” food from the revolution or merely complaining about the insufficient rations. Many of these victims were later executed.

Thus, for victims of famine in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, there was no relief and no way to try and save themselves from famine. Any actions that people take during famines to increase their chances of survival, such as foraging for wild food or moving to where food is more available, were made illegal and punishable by execution by the Khmer Rouge government. There was no escape.

What Did the Leaders Know About Famine?
Perhaps the largest unanswered question about the Khmer Rouge period famine in Cambodia concerns how much the top-level Khmer Rouge leaders knew about the famine that was killing huge numbers of their people. Former Khmer Rouge leaders, such as Nuon Chea, have publicly stated that there were some “mistakes” made by the regime, but claim that the Khmer Rouge government was not responsible for causing famine. Instead, leaders like Nuon Chea often claim that the Khmer Rouge party central leadership in Phnom Penh was unaware of the true conditions in the countryside because local Khmer Rouge officials were lying about how much rice was being produced and how much food the people were being given.

While there is no definitive piece of evidence or information which by itself establishes that the Khmer Rouge leaders knew exactly how bad the famine conditions were throughout the country and how many people were dying of starvation and disease, many documents suggest that the leaders had at least a general idea of conditions on the ground.

First, the central leaders were clearly obsessed with maintaining absolute control over the “party line” to be implemented nationally without any deviation. Shortly after taking power, the leaders established a national system of reporting, whereby local Khmer Rouge officials were required to send telegrams to the central office “871” in Phnom Penh on a range of topics, such as rice production and the security situation in the area. This suggests that the leaders actively followed what was going on in the countryside.

Second, the central leaders also monitored international news sources that mentioned Democratic Kampuchea or related topics. Many of these news articles reported that refugees who had escaped to Thailand had reported mass starvation inside Cambodia. In response, the leaders actively argued that reports of famine in Cambodia were exaggerated. For example, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime, former Minister of Social Affairs Ieng Thirith claimed in a video interview that the Khmer Rouge had “succeeded in giving our people sufficient food, sufficient clothes and free medical care for everybody.” Similarly, in another film, former Deputy Secretary in Charge of Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary claimed that the Khmer Rouge leaders “weren’t aware of life at the grassroots, that is the way murders are able to happen. But the murderers were Vietnamese agents. That’s as plain as day.” Even in 1978, when famine had become especially deadly in Cambodia and victims were dying by the thousands, Pol Pot claimed that there was an abundance of food in Cambodia in an interview with a Chinese news agency, stating “if we compare Kampuchea’s economy and food supplies to Vietnam’s, We can see that Vietnam is starving, while Kampuchea has rice to eat. Thus, Kampuchea has an advantage on food.” It is difficult to imagine that the leaders were not aware that famine could be a major problem, when these leaders were advertising that famine was not taking place at all in international statements.

Third, the central leaders visited the grassroots areas to observe conditions and often purged local officials who admitted that starvation was occurring in their areas. For example, several areas in the Southwest Zone, were starvation was not as bad as other areas, were awarded an honorary flag to mark their achievement of the revolutionary goals assigned. The Southwest Zone had rice quotas that while high, remained much lower than in other areas, such as the East and Northwest Zones. By reaching these quotas and not reporting any problems with rice production, the Southwest Zone, which was favoured by the Khmer Rouge leadership because it was led by trusted comrades, including Ta Mok, escaped major purges. However, the Northwest and East Zones were both led by people that Pol Pot and other senior leaders did not fully trust. These areas were assigned the highest rice quotas, especially the Northwest Zone. When the Zones failed to reach these quotas, or reported that people were dying from starvation and disease, the Zones were purged and their local leaders executed instead of any action being taken to help the starving population. In the case of the Northwest Zone, Ieng Thirith personally visited the Zone in 1976 and reported back to the party leadership that the civilian workforce was in terrible condition, with people suffering from malaria and starvation. Shortly after this report was received by the central leadership, Southwest Zone forces allied to Ta Mok entered the Northwest Zone and purged its entire leadership. Thus, the response to famine of the party center appears to have been to  automatically blame the local leaders and execute them, rather than to try and do anything to help the starving people.

From these examples, it is arguably clear that the leaders of the Khmer Rouge became aware that people were starving in the countryside in large numbers early in during their reign in power. However, it is also clear that these leaders chose to respond with violence and by blaming local officials rather than considering whether to change their own policies, which were causing the famine to begin with. This violent response, along with the general atmosphere of fear and suspicion in Democratic Kampuchea put not only starving civilians, but also local Khmer Rouge cadres in a difficult position. Those cadres who admitted that their area had not met the impossible rice production quotas set by the party leaders risked being violently purged. Meanwhile, local leaders who could provide the party center with the rice it demanded were more likely to avoid the deadly attention of the party leaders. Thus, local leaders who provided the party center with less rice in order to feed the workers more, were more likely to be executed than those who sent the maximum amount possible to the party center. In either case, there was no feasible way for civilians to gain access to more food without risking violence and death.

As the Khmer Rouge slogan advertised, “Angkar has the eyes of a pineapple” and sees everything. This frightening statement proved true for the people the regime thought might be enemies, who were executed by the thousands. Similarly it must have been true to at least some extent when it came to living conditions and famine in the countryside. According to its own slogan, Angkar watched the people under its control suffer and die from famine and starvation, it just chose not to do anything to help this suffering and death.

This concludes episode 3 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Mr. Pechet Men. For questions, answers will be provided and broadcast during the next episode of the program, which will explore the international crime of genocide and how it might be applied to famines in Cambodia and elsewhere.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #4):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, June 2013

This is the fourth episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participate in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode focuses on the topic of the crime of genocide and its applicability to famine, both in Cambodia and generally. Very often the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia is described as the “Cambodian genocide” and thus, this episode will discuss how appropriate the label “genocide” is to describe the Khmer Rouge period famine and also whether famines can ever constitute genocide.

Updates from the ECCC
As reported previously and widely in the media, ECCC Case 002 accused person Ieng Sary died in March. Following this development, co-accused Nuon Chea again filed motions with the Trial Chamber claiming that he is currently unfit to continue standing trial due to his various physical ailments and general weakness due to his advanced age. Following a hearing, the Chamber found Nuon Chea fit to continue standing trial, though it noted that various steps need to be taken to accommodate Nuon Chea’s frail health. The Trial Chamber also issued a decision concerning the scope of the first trial in Case 002 after the Supreme Court Chamber previously held that the Trial Chamber needed to provide additional reasoning for its decision to

sever Case 002 into a series of trials on specific issues. The Trial Chamber essentially decided to sever Case 002 along the same issues as its previous severance decision in its new decision, the Trial Chamber ruled that the first Case 002 trial will address only one of five country-wide criminal policies for which the former senior Khmer Rouge leaders are accused of responsibility: crimes related to the forced transfer of the population of Phnom Penh beginning on April 17, 1975, the subsequent forced transfer of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians to the north of the country between late 1975 and 1977. The remaining charges addressing worksites and cooperatives, security centers, execution sites, forced marriage and genocide were left by the Chamber for uncertain future cases.

Following these two decisions, the Chamber resumed hearing evidence in the Case which now involves accused Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea following the death of Ieng Sary and the finding that Ieng Thirith is unfit to stand trial due to suffering dementia brought on by Alzheimer’s disease.

Introduction: The Definition of the Crime of Genocide
The crime of genocide was created in 1948 when the Genocide Convention was drafted and adopted by the United Nations. The Convention was largely the result of the efforts of one man, Raphael Lemkin, who created the term “genocide” by combining Latin terms for “race” and “killing.” This term, which means to intentionally kill a race or group of people, was created because at the time there existed no crime that fully described the attempts of the German Nazi Party to eliminate Jewish people from all of Europe. As a result of this focus on the crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews, the crime of Genocide has developed into highly specialized law that only applies to situations that are extremely similar to the Nazi situation.

The crime of genocide is very specific and requires three main elements to be satisfied:

  1. the commission of one of five specific acts;
  2. the acts must specifically target members of one of four specific types of groups; and also
  3. the person or people committing the acts must have committed them with the goal of destroying either the entire targeted group or a substantial part of the targeted

The five types of acts which can qualify as genocidal acts are:

  1. killing members of the group;
  2. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and
  5. forcibly transferring children of the group to another

Any one of these five acts can qualify as genocide as long as the other two requirements (that the acts are committed against a specific group and committed with the intent to destroy at least a substantial part of that group) are satisfied.

The four groups that qualify as potential victims of genocide are:

  1. national groups;
  2. ethnic groups;
  3. religious groups; and
  4. racial groups.

First, genocidal crimes can be committed against a group of people targeted because they are all part of a national group. For example, if another country attempted to kill all citizens of Cambodia, this would be a genocide.

Second are ethnic groups. Ethnic groups are groups of people who share a common history and other factors, such as unique languages, traditions, and other social characteristics. For example, the Jarai, Kampuchea Krom and other ethnic groups in Cambodia would likely qualify as an ethnic group and could be victims of genocide. Also, the majority Khmer people of Cambodia would qualify as an ethnic group and could be victims of genocide if they were targeted for destruction.

Third are religious groups. For example, in Cambodia, Buddhists and Cham Muslims would be considered religious groups, along with other smaller religious minorities. Often religious and ethnic groups overlap and as an example, Cham Muslims would likely qualify as both a religious and ethnic group under the Genocide Convention definition.

The fourth and final group is race. Again, racial groups can be overlap with ethnic groups, but are usually defined as being based on physical characteristics a group is believed to share. For example, if people who all had the same color of skin were targeted for destruction by another group with a different skin color, this could be a genocide.

These are the only groups that qualify for genocide and therefore if victims are targeted and killed because they are considered political enemies or part of an unpopular certain social class within a society, a genocide does not occur, although other crimes would probably be involved, such as crimes against humanity.

Finally, all of the acts just discussed only qualify as genocide when the person or people committing these acts are doing so with the specific goal of destroying the targeted group or at least a substantial portion of that group. Therefore, if large groups of people are killed and many of them are of the same religious group, it is only a genocide if the people doing the killing have the goal of to killing a substantial portion of that religious group. Thus, if the perpetrators are killing many

Buddhists, but are doing so because the people are considered class enemies and not because of their religion, this is probably a crime against humanity, but is not genocide.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or “ICTR” dealt with many of these complicated issues surrounding the definition of genocide when dealing with the killings in Rwanda that happened in 1994. In Rwanda, the killings were found to be a genocide, because it was a case where one ethnic group (the Hutus) were killing another ethnic group (the Tutsis) with the goal of destroying the Tutsis as a group completely in Rwanda.

Genocide and Famine Generally
Extremely deadly famines, like the Khmer Rouge famine in Cambodia, which kill a large portion of a population are sometimes referred to as genocides. This is likely because outside of courts, the word genocide is often used to describe extremely terrible events involving huge losses of lives. This use of genocide however, can be a problem because it can lead people to believe that if a crime is not labelled as a genocide, that it is somehow less serious and this is not true.

For famine situations, it is possible that famines can form an important part of a genocide, but this is not always the case. Whether a famine is actually a genocide does not depend so much on how bad the famine was or how many people it killed, but instead depends on whether the people who caused the famine did so with the intention of using famine to destroy a national, ethnic, religious or racial group.

Therefore, the answer to the question of whether extreme famines can be genocides is that they can sometimes be genocides, depending on the motivation of the people who cause the famine. The Genocide Convention establishes that one way the crime of genocide can be committed is by “deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part” of a national, ethnic, religious or racial group. Thus, if one of these groups of people is targeted for destruction and this destruction is to be brought about by starving a large portion of the group, this situation would be a genocide.

However, if a powerful group, such as a central government, simply imposes living conditions that kill large numbers of people but which are not part of a design or plan to eliminate a specific group, this situation would not be a genocide.

Genocide and the Khmer Rouge Famine
When the definition of genocide is applied to the situation in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, it appears that the Khmer Rouge famine was not a genocide.

This is because the Khmer Rouge leaders created policies, explained in previous episodes of this program, that placed agricultural production and the needs of the revolution above the needs of the people to survive. The leaders made everyone work and eat communally and famine spread throughout most of Cambodia under their control as work hours were too long and food rations were not enough. There is no evidence however, that the Khmer Rouge leaders created their famine causing policies with the goal of destroying a national, ethnic, religious or racial group in Cambodia specifically by starving them to death in large numbers. Instead, it appears that the leaders wanted to maximize production of rice and other cash crops at all costs and simply did not care if many thousands of people died in order to do so. While this lack of caring for human life is shocking, it does not appear to be the required targeted goal of destruction for genocide.

The fact that the Khmer Rouge famine does not appear to have involved genocide against the Cambodian people shows how specialized the Genocide Convention is and how narrow the definition of the crime of genocide is. This fact does not however, excuse the acts of the Khmer Rouge in enforcing a famine on the civilian population during the reign in power which cost hundreds of thousands of lives and severely harmed virtually every person in the country. This only means that if the Khmer Rouge period famine was not a genocide, it may be a different crime, such as a war crime or crime against humanity. Furthermore, while genocide is sometimes called the “crime of crimes” there is no official ranking of international crimes according to the law. The only element that sets genocide apart is the special intent to destroy a group of people required for the perpetrators. It is often the case that periods of time when extremely terrible crimes were committed are labelled “genocides” by the popular media. Therefore, while according to the law, the Khmer Rouge famine was probably not a “genocide”, it was still a period of great suffering and mass death that the regime forced on the people and in this way, the popular non-legal understanding of genocide clearly applies to the Khmer Rouge famine.

This concludes episode 4 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. The next episode will discuss international crimes against humanity and how these crimes can be applied to famine situations, including the Khmer Rouge famine in Cambodia.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

(Khmer language)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #5):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Famine and Crimes Against Humanity

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, July 2013

This is the fifth episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participate in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode focuses on the topic of crimes against humanity and their applicability to famine, both in Cambodia and generally. This episode will explain the concept of crimes against humanity, mention some specific crimes and discuss whether these crimes could be associated with periods of famine both generally and within the specific context of the Cambodian experience under the Khmer Rouge.

Update on the ECCC:
As the Court continued to hear victim impact statements that repeated sad stories of loss, violence and starvation, it appeared that eventually these stories had some effect on Nuon Chea, who unexpectedly issued a partial apology and admission of responsibility for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, stating:

“I, of course, was one of the leaders, so I am not rejecting responsibility … I share some responsibility. But I was not part of the executive branch.”

Later, Nuon Chea further stated “I am bearing the responsibility from my heart … In my capacity as a member of Democratic Kampuchea, I accept my responsibility.” He later stated somewhat unclearly “I feel remorseful for the crimes committed, intentionally or unintentionally, whether I had known about it or had not known about it.”

Although Nuon Chea’s statements did not amount to an acceptance of any legal responsibility for the crimes he is charged with, it marked the first time at the ECCC that he has accepted any responsibility for the general mistreatment of the population by the Khmer Rouge.

Introduction: What are Crimes against Humanity?
Use of the term “crimes against humanity” to refer to an event amounting to an alleged international crime dates back to 1915, when the French, British and Russian Governments issued a declaration condemning the mass killing of Armenians in the Turkish Ottoman Empire, calling the killings “new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization” and declaring that “all members of the Ottoman Empire and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres.”1 Although this declaration did not precede any prosecutions, it nonetheless sowed the seeds for crimes against humanity, which were prosecuted extensively by courts and tribunals following World War II.2 Adolf Eichmann was also later found guilty of numerous crimes against humanity by the District Court of Israel3 and crimes against humanity have been charged extensively at the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and at the International Criminal Court, along with the ECCC.4

Crimes against humanity are a set of crimes, elevated to the level of international criminal law by forming part of a “widespread or systematic attack against a civilian

population.” Widespread means that the attack takes place over a large area or an extended period of time. Systematic means that the attack is highly planned and organized. This requirement is a general element and for each prosecution of an individual crime against humanity, the prosecution must demonstrate that both the required attack occurred, and that the specific alleged individual crime fit within this attack. For example, within the context of the Democratic Kampuchea period in Cambodia, there are many actions taken by the Khmer Rouge that could be considered to form the required attack against the civilian population in Cambodia. Executions, general abuse, forced labour and many other official state policies that occurred throughout the countryside were both widespread and systematic because these policies were widespread throughout the country, took place over more than three years and were organized by the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s Party Center in Phnom Penh. Therefore, crimes against humanity, out of the three main categories of international crimes also including genocide and war crimes, is a useful legal tool for accounting for many of the most important sources of suffering and death associated with the Khmer Rouge.

Also, arguably policies relating to living conditions, including lack of sufficient food, overwork and the threat of violent repercussions for seeking additional food could themselves be considered to form part of a widespread and systematic attack against civilians in Cambodia perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime under the authority of the Party Center. Specifically, the crimes against humanity of extermination, persecution and other inhumane acts can be implicated during periods of famine and each of these crimes will be explained in turn.

Extermination
Extermination is a crime defined by the element of “mass” killing and includes “any act, omission, or combination thereof which contributes directly or indirectly to the killing of a large number of individuals” including “subjecting a number of people to conditions of living that would inevitably lead to death.” Article 7 of the Statute of the International Criminal Court specifically states that extermination can be committed through the “deprivation of access to food and medicine.” In the Khmer Rouge context, famine resulted in at the very least, several hundred thousand deaths and likely many more, which would satisfy any definition of the “mass death” requirement. These deaths were also caused by the specific policies of the Khmer Rouge government, laid down by the Party Center and discussed previously as part of this radio program. Through these policies of forced labour, forced communal living, rice expropriation, bans on private food cultivation, collection or consumption and the ever-present threat of violence, the civilian population was forcibly overworked and made wholly dependent on insufficient communal rations.

For an individual accused to be convicted of extermination as a crime against

humanity, such accused must have “intended, by his acts or omissions … the subjection of a widespread number of people, or the systematic subjection of a number of people, to conditions of living that would lead to their deaths.”

Arguably, available documentary evidence, survivor interviews and testimony at the ECCC so far demonstrates that the as famine progressed and worsened in Cambodia, the members of the Khmer Rouge Party Center became generally aware that civilians were starving by the thousands in the countryside. These individuals however, continued to enforce the policies that were causing this famine. As a result, if this fact that the members of the Party Center knew their policies where resulting in mass starvation, it is possible that such individuals could be successfully prosecuted for extermination as a crime against humanity predicated on killing civilians by enforcing famine conditions on them. Therefore, in many cases, including the Khmer Rouge situation, extermination is the single international crime that best reflects how victims are killed by famine, as it applies to situations where conditions of life result in mass death within an affected victim group without regard to whether individual deaths can be predicted.

Persecution
Although famine affected the entire civilian population under the Khmer Rouge, it was especially acute amongst civilians who were perceived to be political enemies of the revolution. These people, including anyone who lived in areas controlled by the Lon Nol government when the Khmer Rouge seized power, intellectuals, city dwellers, the educated and former Lon Nol government officials, were referred to derogatorily as “new” or “17 April” people and subjected to especially harsh living conditions.

The crime against humanity of persecution is the intentional deprivation of a fundamental right protected under international law, carried out deliberately with the intention to discriminate on the grounds of race, religion or politics. As such, persecution could offer a useful crime to account specifically for the especially harsh famine conditions enforced on “new” people by the Khmer Rouge Party Center.

The Khmer Rouge Party Center ordered that “new” people be evacuated to wherever human labour was deemed necessary. These victims suffered from lack of food along the way and typically arrived at areas completely unprepared to house and feed them, for example during the mass deportation to the Northwest Zone. As such, “new” people were often left exposed to the elements without proper food or sanitation, fomenting the spread of famine and associated diseases. The Party Center also specifically demeaned “new” people as a source of enemies of the revolution and referred to them as “parasites” who could be discarded without cost. “New” people were also often used as scapegoats to excuse the failings of Khmer Rouge agricultural policies. When crops failed or rice quotas were not met, often “new”

people were arrested and induced to falsely “confess” to sabotaging crops under torture before being executed. As such, it is likely that the manifest dislike of “new” people, combined with their especially harsh living conditions would satisfy the requirements of persecution by depriving them of fundamental rights to health, dignity and bodily integrity.

“Other Inhumane Acts”
The crime against humanity of other inhumane acts is a residual, catch-all provision used to capture mistreatment of civilians that fails to satisfy the elements of any other crime against humanity, yet rise to a comparable level of gravity. The International Law Commission and international criminal tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have all concluded that comparable gravity refers to acts that injure the victim in terms of his or her “physical or mental integrity, health or human dignity.”

The suffering victims of famine endure, including those who ultimately survive, severely compromises their physical and mental integrity as well as their overall health and human dignity. This is especially true of the Khmer Rouge famine, which lasted for over three years. During this famine, the entire civilian population slowly wasted away from lack of food while being overworked and subjected to routine acts of violence. Indeed, when asked about their experiences, survivors often highlight starvation as the most important issue they want to see addressed by a court. Furthermore, for the same reasons discussed above, if it could be proved that Party Center became aware that they were subjecting the civilian population to inhumane living conditions, including severe famine, yet chose to continue with such policies, these leaders could be found individually liable for the crime against humanity of other inhumane acts for enforcing terrible living conditions, including famine, on the entire civilian population.

This final crime against humanity is important as a tool that could be used to tell the whole story of famine suffering in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. This is because the crimes against humanity of extermination and persecution are concerned solely with mass death and the targeted mistreatment of particular groups of people, while inhumane acts include suffering that does not result in death and that can be inflicted indiscriminately against an entire civilian population. Therefore, inhumane acts could potentially be used to hold individual Khmer Rouge leaders responsible criminally for the full amount of physical and mental suffering caused by the famine they enforced through their policies, including the lasting effects of that famine that continue today in the form of unresolved mental trauma and long-term health problems faced by survivors of the Khmer Rouge period famine.

Conclusion
In sum, it can be strongly argued that the policies of the Khmer Rouge Party Center actively enforced famine on the civilian population in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and amounted to crimes against humanity because they combined to form a widespread and systematic attack that victimized civilians. Specifically, the crimes against humanity of extermination, persecution and other inhumane acts form a combination of crimes that both could potentially be successfully prosecuted and would, as a group, reflect the most important harms associated with famine in Democratic Kampuchea.

It is important however, to note that it is very unlikely that the ECCC will ever address the issues of living conditions, famine and starvation in any detail and this program does not suggest that the Court will do so. As mentioned previously, the ECCC has split the Case concerning the two most senior former Khmer Rouge officials still alive and fit to stand trial-Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan-into a series of trials because of the large number of crimes alleged and complex issues of proof. The topic most closely related to famine would be that of living conditions in cooperatives and at work sites, but this topic will not be addressed in the first Case 002 trial. Therefore, it is very likely that a full legal analysis of living conditions and famine issues under the Khmer Rouge will never take place, as these issues would not be addressed until later trials that may never occur.

As such, this episode is designed to present three crimes-extermination, persecution and other inhumane acts-and to describe what kinds of acts these crimes against humanity are designed to criminalize. Without a final court determination of whether these crimes were committed within the context of the Khmer Rouge period famine, it is up to individual opinion regarding whether certain members of the Khmer Rouge committed these crimes by enforcing famine conditions on the civilian population during the DK period. Listeners are therefore encouraged to think about this issue, make their own conclusions and discuss these opinions with other people whose opinions they value. Any listener who has questions about the evidence, Khmer Rouge history or the legal topics discussed in this or any episode of this radio program, is also encouraged to contact the Documentation Center with their inquiry.

This concludes episode 5 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. The next episode will discuss the topic of war crimes and how these crimes can be applied to famine situations, including the Khmer Rouge famine in Cambodia.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #6):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Famine and War Crimes

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, August 2013

This is the 6th episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participation in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode focuses on the topic of war crimes and their applicability to famine, both in Cambodia and generally. This episode will explain the basic concept of what war crimes are, mention some specific war crimes that could be relevant to certain famine situations and discuss whether these crimes could be implicated within the specific context of the Cambodian famine under the Khmer Rouge.

Introduction: What are War Crimes?
“War crimes” are especially serious violations of the law of warfare, which is officially named “international humanitarian law” and is a set of rules designed to minimize the damage periods of war cause to both people not involved in the fighting and civilian property. Only the most serious violations of humanitarian law constitute war crimes. Humanitarian law itself is a relatively old part of international law and some modern war crimes can be traced back to rules of war laid out in international treaties from the early 1900s or even earlier.

Like crimes against humanity, war crimes were first prosecuted on a large scale following the end of World War II. Many of the main war crimes still applicable today are based on rules set out in four international humanitarian law documents called the “Geneva Conventions of 1949,” and two additional “protocols” to these Conventions from 1977. Certain serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, called “grave breaches” are war crimes. War crimes can also be created as part of general customary public international law or through the development of further conventions or treaties.

Therefore, on a basic level war crimes are acts, committed during an armed conflict, that violate the most basic rules concerning the treatment of people not involved in the fighting, such as civilians, the wounded and prisoners of war. Categories of people whom war crimes can be committed against are referred to as “protected persons.”

When are War Crimes Applicable?
War crimes can only be committed during periods of armed conflict. Also, some war crimes can only be committed during international conflicts, meaning that these crimes are not available during periods of fighting, such as civil wars, where only fighters from one country are involved. Furthermore, any war crimes charged must be related to the actual armed conflict. This second requirement is often called the need for war crimes to share a “nexus” with the armed conflict and means that criminal acts committed during an armed conflict that are unrelated to the conflict do not qualify as war crimes. For example if a person commits the murder of a civilian for purely personal reasons unrelated to the fighting, this is not made a war crime simply because the ordinary murder took place during a period of armed conflict.

As mentioned above, war crimes can also only be committed against so-called “protected persons” consisting of groups of people not involved in the fighting, including: civilians, health and aid workers, wounded soldiers who can no longer fight and prisoners of war. Because most of the law related to war crimes was written at a time when most wars were fought between countries and the main abuses of civilians during wars were committed by foreign forces, some war crimes drawn from the Geneva Conventions can only be committed against civilians who are under the power of a foreign occupying power. This is because war crimes were not designed to protect civilians from being harmed by their own government during wartime, but instead were intended to regulate how invading armies had to treat civilians in newly conquered territories.

War Crimes at the ECCC and Famine
Under modern war crimes law, it is a crime to “intentionally use starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions” during a period of international armed conflict. This crime is drawn from one of the 1977 Protocols to the Geneva Conventions and is available at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This crime addresses the problem of powerful militaries cutting off food supplies to the civilian population of an enemy during an armed conflict or acts to prevent international relief efforts. This crime however, still is inapplicable to address acts by a home government that cause starvation of their own civilians, as the crime does not contemplate that a military would intentionally starve its own home civilian population as part of a war effort.
As it is a violation of fair trial standards for an accused to be convicted of a crime that did not exist when the actual acts took place, the ECCC Law provides the Court with jurisdiction over only a limited number of war crimes, all of which are known as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Although the crime of intentionally using starvation as a method of warfare is not available at the ECCC, some basic war that are included in the Court’s jurisdiction could be relevant to certain famine and starvation scenarios. Of these crimes, at first glance several appear to be potentially relevant to the Khmer Rouge period famine at first glance, including the crimes of:

  • wilful killing;
  • torture or inhumane treatment;
  • wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health; and
  • unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a civilian.

In a general sense, wilful killing can be implicated if starvation conditions are intentionally enforced on a civilian or other protected population, with the intent to cause their deaths.

Similarly, torture or inhumane treatment could be implicated if civilians or other protected persons are intentionally mistreated by withholding food from them, for example to torture prisoners of war by locking them up and not feeding them.

Wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury is less clear in its meaning, but could be applicable to situations where food supplies to a protected population are intentionally reduced or famine conditions are otherwise intentionally enforced on the population with the intent to cause suffering.

Furthermore, famines are often caused or worsened by acts of armed groups which serve to prevent the affected population from moving freely in order to relocate to areas with more abundant food or to travel to locations where humanitarian food aid is being distributed, such as refugee sites.

None of these crimes however, appear suitable to account for the Khmer Rouge period famine in Cambodia, both for some general rules concerning war crimes applicability mentioned above and issues specific to each of the four listed crimes.

As a general matter, the main victims of the Khmer Rouge famine were Cambodian civilians, who were not protected persons under the rules of the Geneva Conventions and also, the famine was mostly unrelated to the armed conflict with Vietnam at the time.

First, the Khmer Rouge was not a foreign occupying power in Cambodia while it held power, but was actually the official government of the country, meaning that Cambodian victims of famine were not members of protected population.

Second, throughout the Khmer Rouge period, there was tension and intermittent fighting along the Vietnamese border with Cambodia and the ECCC has ruled that this fighting qualified as an international armed conflict for the purposes of war crimes applicability. As such, generally, grave breach war crimes can be prosecuted at the ECCC, but does not relieve the prosecution of the burden of showing how each charged war crime has a nexus (or is related) to the armed conflict with Vietnam. It does not appear that the Khmer Rouge period famine was very much related to this conflict, as famine conditions were caused by the Khmer Rouge government itself in its domestic policy and it the fighting was not a major cause which contributed to lessen crop yields. In fact, some of the worst areas for famine conditions at the time were in Cambodia’s Northwest Zone and other locations very far away from the border conflict with Vietnam, showing that it was not the conflict that was causing food shortages for civilians.

Conclusion
Famines have routinely accompanied periods of armed conflict and war throughout human history. Over the past century, humanitarian law has evolved to include various requirements designed to minimize the suffering of non-combatants during war, including by criminalizing the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare. As such, for many modern famines, such as those in the Darfur region of the Sudan or possibly Somalia, war crimes present a promising entry point for addressing famine through international criminal law. Only the most serious violations of humanitarian law however, rise to the level of war crimes and these crimes are primarily designed to prevent collateral damage to “enemy” civilian populations, limiting the coverage of war crimes over common modern famine scenarios. Despite these limitations, war crimes do continue to have relevance to very specific famine scenarios, particularly those involving sieges, expropriation of civilian foodstuffs by military forces, the destruction of civilian food production capacities or severe violations of civilian food rights in occupied territory. These war crime scenarios do not reflect the reality of the Khmer Rouge period famine, which was largely unrelated to the regime’s conflict with Vietnam and as discussed in previous episodes, was primarily the result of domestic Khmer Rouge policy. Moreover, as discussed in episode 5 of this series, it is crimes against humanity that are more appropriately used to respond to circumstances where a government abuses its own citizens. Therefore, while war crimes may be very relevant to famine conditions resulting directly from armed conflict, these crimes do not appear to be a suitable point of entry in any pursuit of justice of the Khmer Rouge famine in Cambodia.

(Khmer language)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #7):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Justice and Modern Famine: Beyond Cambodia

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, September 2013

This is the 7th episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participation in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode focuses on how understandings of famine have changed recently and how famines are now understood as complex results of mostly human and political factors and note only the result of decreases in food production. In doing so, other modern famines in places such as North Korea, Ethiopia and Darfur are introduced and how they have been treated under international criminal law so far is explained.

Introduction: Famine in the 20th Century
For many centuries, famine was understood as being the result of a natural disaster or other factor affecting the total amount of food produced within a country or area afflicted by famine. These understandings viewed famine as a largely unavoidable risk associated with human civilization. This understanding of famine is often referred to as “Malthusian”, after scholar Robert Malthus who wrote some influential analyses of famine in the late 1700s. Under this conception of famine, because famine is understood as resulting simply from a country having too many people or producing insufficient total amounts of food, famine prevention efforts typically focused on increasing food production capabilities and other technological challenges, such as

improving transportation and storage capacities for food. This understanding of famine dominated the field of famine studies until relatively recently in the late 20th century, when a new set of scholars, such as Amartya Sen, began to question its applicability.

The main reason that old understandings of famine began were questioned is that these old views of famine did not appear to accurately reflect the realities of famine in the 20th century. Under a Malthusian understanding, the main challenge to ending famine was to solve the technological challenges of producing and transporting sufficient food to support the population of each country. Early in the 1900s however, a series of rapid technological advances solved the majority of the most serious challenges believed to be standing in the way of the global eradication of famine. For example, new fertilizers, machines, refrigeration and transportation techniques allowed food to be grown in larger quantities and moved to areas in need much more easily without the food going bad in the process. Despite these technological improvements, famine persisted throughout the 20th century and indeed, grew worse than ever before in many areas, and more than 70 million victims died in twentieth century famines alone.

In the second half of the 20th century, some scholars began to investigate the root causes of famine and to challenge some of the assumptions that were part of the Malthusian approach. When some of these scholars examined specific famines in detail, they almost all reached the same conclusion: that changes in total food production within countries and regions affected by famine conditions often are mostly unrelated to whether a famine takes place. Instead, these scholars began to come to the realization that various political, social and legal factors are far more important to famine prevention. For example, in the 1980s there was a severe famine in Ethiopia, a country in Eastern Africa. During the famine periods of bad weather reduced crop outputs somewhat. However, famine only occurred within Ethiopia and all of the countries surrounding Ethiopia, which all suffered the same bad weather, experienced no severe famine conditions at all. Furthermore, even within Ethiopia, famine conditions were confined to a very specific part of the country, which was known as the home base of an anti-government opposition group known. This pattern of localization of famine began to be identifiable in other modern famines. This is also true of the Khmer Rouge period famine, as despite the fact that a drought occurred in Southeast Asia in 1977, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam suffered no famine, while the Khmer Rouge famine only continued to grow worse. As a result of these findings, scholars who study famine have begun to emphasize the importance of political, social and legal ways of ending and preventing famine and moving away from the Malthusian emphasis solely on increasing food production.

Famine and International Criminal Law: Limited Progress
This shift in understandings of the dynamics of modern famine also roughly coincided with the beginnings of modern international criminal law marked by the creation of International Military Tribunal (“IMT”) at Nuremberg and continuing more recently with other special tribunals, including the ECCC in Cambodia and the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands.

Scholars from various disciplines have argued that the use of international criminal law should form part of larger efforts to finally end famine. Some of these scholars have also argued that specific famines have already involved the commission of international crimes, such as the famines in the Ukraine inside the former Soviet Union in Eastern Europe from 1932-1933, Ethiopia in Africa from 1982-1985, North Korea in Asia from the 1990s to intermittently now, the Darfur region of Sudan in Africa, from approximately 1985 to intermittently now and Somalia, from at least 2011 to intermittently now to name a few common examples. Some scholars have also argued that the Khmer Rouge period famine involved the commission of international crimes.

Despite these academic calls for international prosecutions of individuals who cause famine conditions, as noted in previous episodes, there has been very little actual practice within international criminal law related specifically to famine. Aside from some early prosecutions of Nazi officials for causing famine amongst Jews in Europe and within occupied Polish territory in Eastern Europe during World War II, there has been very little attention paid to famine issues in international criminal prosecutions, which have tended to focus mostly on traditional crimes committed by direct violence, such as mass killings and the use of torture in prison camps for example.

The Famine in Darfur and the Bashir Case at the ICC
Some progress however, does appears to already be underway towards recasting famine as a proper subject of international criminal law. In the example of the Darfur area of Sudan, which is a country in the Eastern part of Africa, the ICC has issued indictments against Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and others for various crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, based partially on the terrible living conditions enforced on civilians in the Darfur region. Famine is a major component of these living conditions that has contributed to the spread of disease and increased death rates in Darfur and would likely be explored should the case against Al-Bashir or others ever go to trial. In that case, the prosecution has alleged that genocidal acts were committed against members of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the Darfur region, including genocide by “deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction” of the ethnic groups as part of the Sudanese government’s military strategy. Indeed, specific reference is made in the second arrest warrant for Al-Bashir to acts of poisoning drinking water supplies, violent evictions of whole towns and encouraging members of other ethnic groups to settle the land of forcibly evicted people.

The prosecution, in its original application to the ICC concerning the situation in Darfur, argued that various acts causing starvation in Darfur were part of an alleged genocidal criminal plan created by President Bashir and others. In particular, prosecution alleged that in the Darfur region, approximately “83,000 [victims] died as a consequence of injury, starvation, lack of water, or conditions in [refugee] camps” between September of 2003 and January of 2005 alone.

The Famine in North Korea and the UN Investigation
Meanwhile, concerning the situation in North Korea, which is located above South Korea and between Japan and China, in early 2013 Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations (“UN”) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, issued a report to the UN Human Rights Council calling for an investigation into patterns of human rights violations and potential crimes against humanity in North Korea. In the report, Darusman identified nine “inter-linked” patterns of human rights violations in North Korea since 2004 that potentially rise to the level of crimes against humanity, including violation of the right to food, “in particular the effect of State- controlled food distribution policies on the nutritional status and health of the population and the restricted entry of international humanitarian aid to deal with the endemic food crisis.” On 18 March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council voted to establish a one-year commission of inquiry to investigate the violations outlined in Darusman’s report. The results of this report will likely be very influential in determining whether criminal prosecutions ever result from North Korea’s famine causing policies.

Conclusion
Severe famines, where large numbers of victims die from starvation and famine- related diseases, have finally begun to decrease over the past few decades. Currently, these kinds of severe famines are limited solely to instances of war, general chaos or authoritarian governments. These situations reflect modern understandings of famine that focus on human reasons and not natural decreases in food production, as the key ingredient in causing famine in the first place. While scholarship on the proper role of international criminal law in helping to completely end famine and starvation conditions globally is limited, there has been some movement towards recognizing that modern famines result from potentially criminal acts by powerful individuals in recent years. As mentioned in previous episodes of this program, the Khmer Rouge period famine represents one instance of famine that can be accurately remembered as a “criminal” famine committed against Cambodian civilians by the Khmer Rouge leadership, even if famine-based charges are never pursued at the ECCC. Moving forward into the future, it is possible that current famine situations in places such as Somalia, Darfur and North Korea may end up resulting in criminal prosecutions at some point in the future. Hopefully these legal efforts will contribute to a larger movement towards the long-overdue complete global elimination of starvation in the near future.

This concludes episode 7 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. The next episode will examine some previous court cases concerning famine and starvation.

(Khmer language)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #8):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: The Frank Case and New Information from the ECCC About Rice Distribution

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, October 2013

This is the 8th episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participation in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode focuses on the prosecution of former member of the German Nazi party, Hans Frank by the International Military Tribunal (IMT) following the end of World War II and explains how that Tribunal dealt with the issue of famine. This episode also provides further information on evidence related to famine in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge based on the testimony of Ros Suoy at the ECCC in April of 2013.

Introduction: Famine in Occupied Poland during World War II
Following the end of active fighting during World War II, the victorious Allies (Britain, the United States and Russia), created a Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, where former high-level members of the German Nazi party were prosecuted for international crimes. One person prosecuted by the IMT was Hans Frank, who held the positions of Chief Civil Administration Officer and later, Governor General, of occupied Poland during World War II. This meant that Frank was in charge of

overseeing all aspects of the German occupation of Poland during the war. During this occupation, Polish civilians were forced to work long hours to produce goods, including food, to support the German war effort. As part of this war effort, Polish workers were given extremely small amounts of food, as the emphasis was on producing enough food for the German military to keep fighting. After considering Frank’s role in overseeing the German administration of occupied Poland, the judges of the IMT found him guilty of various charges, including finding Frank responsible for the crimes against humanity “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations.” These convictions were based mostly on Frank’s role in brutalizing Polish civilians in support of the German war effort.

In convicting Frank, the Tribunal’s judges noted that in accord with the policy of the German Nazi Party, Frank himself had stated “Poland shall be treated like a colony, the Poles will become the slaves of the Greater German World Empire.” The judges further concluded that “[t]he evidence establishes that this occupation policy was based on the complete destruction of Poland as a national entity, and a ruthless exploitation of its human and economic resources for the German war effort. All opposition was crushed with the utmost harshness.” As for the results of this ruthless exploitation, the Tribunal noted that the extremely difficult working conditions and German expropriation of foodstuffs resulted in mass death amongst Polish civilians through disease and starvation, finding that:

The economic demands made on [occupied Poland] were far in excess of the needs of the army of occupation, and were out of all proportion to the resources of the country. The food raised in Poland was shipped to Germany on such a wide scale that the rations of the population of the occupied territories were reduced to the starvation level, and epidemics were widespread. Some steps were taken to provide for the feeding of the agricultural workers who were used to raise the crops, but the requirements of the rest of the population were disregarded. It is undoubtedly true, as argued by counsel for the defence, that some suffering in the General Government was inevitable as a result of the ravages of war and the economic confusion resulting there from. But the suffering was increased by a planned policy of economic exploitation.

This use of the civilian population of Poland as a source of indentured labour by Nazi Germany is fundamentally similar to how the Khmer Rouge viewed and used the civilian population of Cambodia as free labour to serve the revolution. In both situations, civilians were only permitted to access enough basic necessities, including food, insofar as it benefitted the government in charge, be it the German Nazi Party or the Khmer Rouge. In both Poland and Cambodia, this economic and social

exploitation of the civilian population resulted in terrible living conditions involving famine, disease and starvation and resulting in mass death. Ultimately, the Tribunal judges found that Frank was “a willing and knowing participant in the use of terrorism in Poland; in the economic exploitation of Poland in a way which led to the death by starvation of a large number of people; in the deportation to Germany as slave labourers of over a million Poles; and in a programme involving the murder of at least three million Jews.”

The IMT Judgement against Frank provides an early example of how crimes against humanity can be successfully prosecuted against individuals who participate in enforcing famine conditions on a civilian population, resulting in mass death, inhumane conditions and targeted discrimination.

The conviction of Frank for the crime against humanity of extermination also demonstrates how, as a crime of large-scale, yet impersonal killing whereby there is no requirement of a direct link between the accused and any specific individual victim, extermination accurately reflects how famines can ravage a civilian population indiscriminately. In the context of the Khmer Rouge famine, extermination charges would reflect how the decisions of Khmer Rouge elites in Phnom Penh directly resulted in indiscriminate mass death throughout the Cambodian countryside.

The Tribunal judges also found Frank guilty for various international crimes for having participated in the Final Solution plan of the German Nazi party to kill all of the Jews living in Europe. The judges found that pursuant to the Final Solution plan, Jews in all areas controlled by Germany “were forced into ghettoes, subjected to discriminatory laws, deprived of the food necessary to avoid starvation, and finally systematically and brutally exterminated.” This targeted persecution of Jews by the German Nazis is in many respects similar to the manner in which the Khmer Rouge leadership expressed disdain for new people, as new people were also singled out amongst the civilian population and branded as less deserving of access to basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, healthcare and rest.

For more information on extermination and other crimes against humanity, please refer back to episode #5 of this radio series.

Recent Evidence About the Exportation of Rice at the ECCC
As mentioned in previous episodes of this program, there is no surviving record which establishes how much rice was produced in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period and how much of rice was exported. Although many survivors of the period, including Khmer Rouge cadres, have stated in interviews that they witnessed large quantities of rice being expropriated by the CPK government and apparently prepared for export, it was somewhat unclear how this process was carried out. Recent testimony of former Khmer Rouge state warehouse official Ros Suoy at the ECCC has shed some light on how rice production and exportation was carried out under the Khmer Rouge. Suoy testified that he worked at two warehouses in and around Phnom Penh between 1975 and 1979 and that he was aware that at least several other similar state warehouses existed in the area at the time.1 Ros Suoy further testified that only unmilled rice was consumed within the country and that his warehouse often had to keep “four to five” rice mills operating constantly in order to process sufficient rice to meet the CPK’s demands for exports. Meanwhile, Ros Suoy stated that unmilled rice was kept in reserve for export orders and despite the fact that other goods, such as salt and cement, were distributed from the warehouse to locations within Cambodia, rice was never redistributed within the country whatsoever. Suoy’s testimony would appear to corroborate statements made by survivors in interviews to Professor Ben Kiernan in which these survivors described witnessing boats being loaded with rice to ship down the rivers to Phnom Penh.

Certain primary CPK documents, such as surviving documents of the Khmer Rouge’s “State Commerce Committee,” based in Kampong Som, appear to corroborate Suoy’s testimony. Many of these documents accounted for “income” and “expenditure” of rice in reports transmitted to the Party Center.2 Also, some of these documents were

signed by a person named “Roeung”, whom Suoy testified was his superior, suggesting that the CPK operated a system whereby rice would be shipped from all locations in the countryside to state warehouses in Phnom Penh where it was processed, packaged and sent to Kampong Som seaport for export under the supervision of Roeung and the State Commerce Committee.3 Thus, while precisely how much rice was exported from Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period is likely unknowable, there appears to be ample available evidence, in the form of primary CPK documentation, potential witness testimony and circumstantially, proving the basic fact that the CPK government exported large quantities of rice over extended periods of time while in power, even as Cambodian civilians died by the thousands of famine. Furthermore, Suoy’s testimony suggests that the Khmer Rouge had a national system in place where unhusked rice would be sent to Phnom Penh for storage and preparation for export and then, when an order came in for rice, it would be transported to Kampong Som for actual shipment. This story also fits with claims by former Kampong Som dock workers who have stated that they loaded large quantities of rice on ships that looked Chinese during the Khmer Rouge period.

Conclusion
Although in recent international criminal prosecutions famine has not been a major area of focus, it is clear that at least during the beginnings of modern international criminal law at the IMT, judges considered it quite proper to hold Hans Frank responsible for causing famine and other problems with living conditions amongst the civilians in the occupied territories he was put in charge of. As this prosecution took place decades before 1975, it appears that enforcing famine conditions could amount to an international crime in certain circumstances. Indeed, the control exercised by the Nazis over the lives of civilians in occupied Poland is in many ways quite similar to the absolute control the Khmer Rouge had over civilians while they were in power in Cambodia.

Meanwhile, recent ECCC testimony has shed further light on the mystery surrounding the important issue of rice production and exportation from Cambodia while the Khmer Rouge were in power. The testimony of Ros Suoy, if accurate, establishes that the Khmer Rouge regime had a well-organized system in place of collecting, storing, processing and shipping rice overseas.

PRACH THENG4

Summary by Men Pechet

My name is Prach Theng. I live in Prey Thom Commune, Kampot District, Kampot Province which is my hometown. I am married and have two children. In 1972-1973 I was about 24 years old and I lived in the same place. I was a Lon Nol soldier at that time and I fled to Champa by Plane 56. The flight stopped at Nha Trang (Vietnam). Then I took a-ten-wheel vehicle to Champa and reached Tik Puoh and Tik Huy. The water was up to 30 degree Celsius and we could even boil eggs. I studied there for about three months. I learnt the strategies to fight against the Khmer Rouge. I worked as a soldier at Kep town and there were approximately 200 soldiers were sent there. When I returned from Champa, I worked as a soldier to fight the Khmer Rouge. In 1973, Khmer Rouge came to take control of Kep town. Then I took a boat to Kampong Som. In 1974, I went to Kampong Trach with the Viet Cong by car. As I reached Tampong Trach, I walked to Prey Thom and continued to Damnak Chang Eu railway station. Then I stayed with Khmer Rouge there. At first I was assigned to work in Solidarity Group. After awhile, the communal eating was in practice. At that time I was assigned to work both day and night. Then later on I was assigned to transport unit. My duties were to transport unmilled rice to the rice mill and transport rice to the eating hall. After that I was assigned to work in the ploughing unit. I worked pretty hard, so they kept me alive. I was assigned to plough every day and started from 3am to 11am and from 1pm to 3pm. Then when rice was to be transplanted at night, I and another two were assigned to carry 400 bundles of rice for about 100 m from the paddy fields before taking a rest. I could take a rest at around 10 pm. During the dry season, I had to harvest rice in the morning and to thresh the grains of rice in the afternoon. And sometimes I had to guard the rice field at night as well. My wife stayed at home and I went back home in the early morning. I worked 12 hours per day.

Question: Did you mean that you worked for the whole week, 7 days per week? Theng: Yes, for the whole week. Worked from morning to evening and from 7pm to 10pm or 11 pm. So, a one-month work seemed like two-month work. One family lived in one house. Family members could not meet each other. Sometimes, I transported product elsewhere while my wife had to harvest at Trapaing L’peou which was close to Veal Renh. We could return home once a month. The Khmer Rouge assigned my wife to work outside and left a 15-month-old baby with me. Therefore, I had to work and then take care of the baby. Living conditions during that time were horrible. They assigned me to transport the economic product including fish, crab, etc. and that job was not easy. I got only breakfast and dinner. Sometimes, I had to carry more than 100 kg of those products. Then when I arrived, they would assign me to deliver one 50kg-70kg to each hall. We had to follow the order and

people were divided into new people and candidate. But both were targeted for execution. 10kg of fish was for 600 people. All people including young, old, thin, fat got only a small amount of rice and soon they would remain only bone and skin. Later on we got only 0.3kg of potato and very little soup with water lily. And it was not enough. Then we got only a few small red corns. People had not enough food, since the Khmer Rouge had sent those products to the forest. They took rice out at night by truck, but I was not sure where they transported it to. I thought they might have sent it to a camp. I heard that there were many rice storages there to support the soldiers. Much of sugar palm were sent there as well.

Question: Who limited the food shortage?

Theng: Angkar. And we did not know who Angkar was. But I thouhgt it was not because of Angkar at all, it was because of the higher ranking cadres themselves. They imposed the goal of 3 tons per hectare of rice yield. If we could not reach the goal, they would decrease the amount of food from the villagers to support the soldiers. There were so many soldiers. Many villagers were dead.

Question: Were there any toilets during that time?

Theng: Not at all. The forest was the toilet. We just excreted in the forest. Ladies carried human excrement to mix with cow dung and threw it into the field. If someone died while they were working, Khmer Rouge just dug holes and buried their bodies there. They did not care about those who died at all; they just cared about those who could work for the revolution. If someone got sick, they would be sent to the medical center. Fever was common disease. For those who were sick and needed injections, they would use coconut juice to inject the patients; and sometimes the patients died immediately after the injection. Some others died immediately after the medical staff injected water into their bodies. They had their own medicine; however the medicine was made from the roots of the tree and it was black. If someone was frequently sick, they would be executed. Patients were also executed. In that time they wanted us to be silent and not care about other business. I actually have 7 siblings, but two were executed. The 17-April people in Prey Thom Commune were targeted for execution. There were 30 families in my village, and there were only 7 males left. If someone knew too much about others, they would disappear too.

Question : Did villagers face the problem of starvation?

Theng : Yes, of course. Many villagers were dead; many villagers were starved. Basically villagers got a small amount of rice, and finally only 0.3kg of potato. Some villagers would steal some potato and put them into their pots or pockets behind their houses, and secretly boiled one in their house. However, if the cadre found out, they would face serious trouble. There was only one teapot in one house. There was no pot or plate at all. Those were collected and put as communal belongings. After the regime was overthrown, I chose to be a fisherman. My children are now grown up and they have their own machine boat. I have quit my job as a fisherman because I am already old. If there was no Khmer Rouge regime, my family would not be separated.

This concludes episode 8 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. The next episode will examine some previous court cases concerning famine and starvation.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

(Khmer language)

DOCUMENTATION CENTER OF CAMBODIA

VOICES OF GENOCIDE: JUSTICE AND THE KHMER ROUGE FAMINE

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #9):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Looking Forward Beyond International Criminal Law: the Human Right to Adequate Food

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, November 2013

This is the 9th episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participation in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

In earlier episodes issues related to famine, starvation and their treatment under international criminal law. This episode moves beyond the realm of international criminal law to explain how access to food and related issues are treated under international human rights law.

Introduction: What is International Human Rights Law?
The language of “human rights” is used in many different ways and in many different contexts. For example, when and event occurs that people believe is unjust or unfair, those affected and organizations such as NGOs often claim that the human rights of those affected have been violated. These types of injustices continue to happen regularly throughout the world everyday, including in Cambodia. Other times, the language of human rights is used to promote specific causes, groups of political movements. The many uses of the term “human rights” is reflective of the complex system of law that makes up international human rights law. Legally speaking, it is generally agreed that is the basic “dignity” of all human beings, to be ethically and

fairly treated, along with their basic bodily integrity that human rights law is meant to protect. But determining what specific requirements must be in place to protect the dignity of all human beings is a complicated and difficult process. For some people, access to basic education is a major obstacle standing between them and a more dignified life. For others, it is receiving a sufficiently high wage to provide for themselves and their family. In some cases, people lack access to enough food to eat, which impairs their dignity and harms their physical health.

Due to the wide scope of international human rights law, this body of law is made up of many different sources and types of law. Human rights law can be found in international treaties and other documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Human rights law can also be found in reports and statements published by the United Nations and other organizations.

The Human Right to Adequate Food
The human right to adequate food is mentioned in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food”. This right is laid out in greater detail in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) a major human rights document of the United Nations.

The right to adequate food is also supported by language in other important legal instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and has presumptively attained the status of customary international law.1 The primary formulation of the human right to adequate food is contained in Article 11 of the ICESCR, which requires countries that are parties to the document to “recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including … adequate food … [and] the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger”. Thus, the right to adequate food is actually made up of two distinct rights: the right to generally have access to adequate food in the form of basic food security and also the “fundamental” right to be free from hunger.

According to human rights legal principles, countries wishing to satisfy their obligations under the ICESCR have an immediate duty to ensure that the “fundamental” right of freedom from hunger is immediately realized for its citizens, while also taking action to achieve the long-term objective of overall food security both domestically for its own citizens and to contribute to international efforts to

end food shortages globally. The fundamental right to be free from hunger cannot legally be ignored, “even in times of natural or other disasters.”

Guaranteeing the immediate fundamental right to be free from hunger involves more than merely providing the population with the minimum amount of food necessary to survive. Instead, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate food has stated that the fulfillment of the right:

is about being guaranteed the right to feed oneself, which requires not only that food be available (that the ratio of production to the population be sufficient), but also that it be accessible – that each household either have the means to produce its own food or have sufficient purchasing power to buy the food it needs.

The UN Committee on Social and Cultural Rights has also stated that the “core content of the right to adequate food implies” that food be made available in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals; that the food be “acceptable within a given culture” and that ensuring access to sufficient food does not interfere with other human rights.

The human right to adequate food therefore, basically requires that governments take immediate steps to ensure that its citizens all have access enough food to satisfy their basic food needs, while gradually taking steps to improve food availability both domestically and internationally.

Like other human rights requirements, the primary obligations placed on countries by the human right to adequate food are domestic. A country violates the requirements of the right to adequate food under the ICESCR if it “fails to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very lease, the minimum level required to be free from hunger.”  Furthermore, if a country argues “that resource constraints make it impossible to provide access to food for those who are unable by themselves to secure such access, the State has to demonstrate that every effort has been made to use all the resources at its disposal … [to meet] those minimum obligations.

The Right to Adequate Food in Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Legacy
When the broad requirements of the human right to adequate food are considered within the context of the Khmer Rouge period famine in Cambodia, it is clear that the Khmer Rouge government completely failed its obligations to ensure the basic right 

of its own civilian population to be free from hunger. Although Cambodia did not become a member of the ICESCR until 1992, the basic rights to a minimum standard of living for everyone recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was clearly flagrantly violated from 1975-1979 by the Khmer Rouge government in many ways, including the creation of widespread famine conditions.

If the Khmer Rouge government had been a member of the ICESCR, which was drafted in 1966, it would have also violated its human rights obligations under that document as well. First, the regime could not argue that the poor food situation it inherited from the Lon Nol regime after the civil war was an excuse for not ensuring that the minimum food needs of the population were met, as even natural disasters do not excuse a country’s failure to ensure that the basic food needs of its population are met. Second, the right to adequate food requires that if a country wants to argue that it does not have enough resources to ensure that every citizen is provided enough food, the country’s government must demonstrate that it has used all resources at its disposal to try and feed the population. The Khmer Rouge government, despite suffering from a chronic shortage of resources, could not argue that it had used all the resources at its disposal to feed the population, as the government exported rice throughout its time in power, even as famine spread and mass starvation events began to take place throughout the countryside.

Thus, the Khmer Rouge government clearly failed to meet even its most basic human rights obligations, including its obligation to ensure that the population had access to the minimum resources needed for survival. As argued in previous episodes of this radio program, especially severe violations of the food rights of Cambodian civilians during the Khmer Rouge period appear to have gone beyond human rights violations and amounted to crimes against humanity. Finally, the legacy of the Khmer Rouge period and its famine can still be witnessed in modern Cambodia. Many Cambodians still chronically lack access to sufficient food to keep them and their families healthy. As a result, the right to adequate food remains largely not achieved in Cambodia, despite the fact that the country signed onto the ICESCR over twenty years ago, in 1992. While some steps have been taken, many Cambodians remain chronically food insecure. This lack of security in ensuring that the entire population has access to one of the basic requirements of life – sufficient food – demonstrates that far-reaching legacy of the Khmer Rouge period and the ongoing challenges that modern Cambodia faces. Through constant effort, gradual reform and the pursuit of transitional justice for past traumas, Cambodia can continue to move towards a more stable and food-secure future, where everyone in the country has enough to eat.

Voeng Phen

Summary by Men Pechet

I am Voeng Phen, 54 years old. During the Khmer Rouge period, I lived in Kampong Tralach commune. I was not evacuated to somewhere else like the others, just only separated from my parents. I have 7 family members. In 1974, I was 16 years old and I was assigned to work in the mobile unit at Koh Sla. My job was to carry soil, build dam, and work in the rice fields. My working hours were from 6am to 11am and from 1pm to 5pm. Living conditions were horrible. I got only one big spoon of porridge. Food was never enough, and it leaded to disease. Some people died but others could survive.

Daly    : Had you ever witnessed any torture while you were working?

Phen : Some people had accidents while they were working. Some died when the soil felt over. Some people collapsed because of exhaustion while they were carrying soil, and some others died because they were not sent to hospital on time. Disappearances happened every day, but no one dared to ask. We just worked. I was afraid if I did not work hard, my life was not in secure.

Daly    : Do you know why they were disappearing?

Phen : I know a little, but I did not dare to speak during that time. They may have had arguments with cadres, lazy, or could not reach the goals. And some of them may have had relative who were Lon Nol’s soldiers. Those who survived hid their background during that time.

Leng : What did Angkar do with those who died?

Phen : They were buried, and their parents would get only the news. There was no religious ceremony. When I grew up, I was selected to be a soldier. Then I had not much time to meet my parents at all. I worked as a Khmer Rouge soldier for about three years, then Vietnamese soldiers came. At that time I had a position as a corporal sergeant. Life as a soldier was not easy. Soldiers could die at any time in the battlefield. At that time I was a soldier at Koh Chonloh. Soldiers had no enough time to relax. Soldiers had to be careful all the time; otherwise the other side would kill us at any time. During the time I was a soldier, I visited home only once.

Leng : What would happen if Khmer Rouge knew that you visited home without permission?

Phen : I took turns with other soldiers to visit home, but I did not dare to stay home at night. However, if I was very busy with work, I would not go home at all. I do not know much about the executions in the village at all.

Daly    : Did Khmer Rouge train young people to be soldiers? Phen : Yes.

Daly    : How did they train them?

Phen : They were assigned to be in the child unit. Those children were fed by Angkar and had a unit chief to lead and teach them to work. Those children would be selected to be soldiers when they grew up.

Leng  : Were you married during the Khmer Rouge period?

Phen : Not yet.

Leng : Do you know about marriage during Khmer Rouge period?

Phen : Yes. Marriage during the Khmer Rouge period was different from today. Let me raise an example from when I worked in a mobile unit in Koh Sla. Weddings were not only for one couple or pair; there were at least 20 pairs in one time. Men and women stood in rows. Some may know each other while others did not. Some were very shy and did not even look up to face their partners. Couples had no house after marriage. After marriage they were allowed to relax for one week. Then they had to work as usual.

Daly    : Where did you go when the Vietnamese soldiers came?

Phen : I escaped from the border to the forest in Pech Nil. I stayed there for 6 months. I just followed other soldiers. The Khmer Rouge told us not to return home otherwise Vietnamese soldiers would kill us. Some soldiers were dead during the time we escaped.

Leng : Did you meet your family members when you returned home?

Phen : Soon after my return I did not meet all my family members since they had been assigned to work in different places. I met only my parents.

Leng : Are all your siblings still alive? Phen : Yes. They all are still alive.

This concludes episode 9 of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge. The next and last program in this radio series will provide a summary of some of the issues related to justice and the Khmer Rouge famine explored throughout this radio series and provide some topics for further discussion on this still-unresolved topic.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

 (Khmer language)

DC-Cam Community Radio Program (Episode #10):

Famine in Democratic Kampuchea and Case 002 at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (formally known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia: ECCC)

Topic: Hunger, Memory and Justice

By Randle C. DeFalco*

with Men Pechet and Lorn Dalin Voice: Dy Khamboly and Kan Penhsamnang

In collaboration with VOA Record Studio in Phnom Penh, December 2013

This is the 10th and final episode of a ten-episode radio series which explores the historical and legal aspects of the famine that took place in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979. The goal of this program is to better inform Cambodian people about a critical part of their shared history while encouraging active participation in the transitional justice process. The Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) welcomes feedback about the program, including contact from people who would like to share their own experience of the famine under the Khmer Rouge or people who have questions for the Center about the Khmer Rouge famine or international law.

This episode serves as a summary of the issues explored thus far in episodes one to nine, offers some concluding thoughts on justice and the Khmer Rouge famine and suggests how the legacy of this tragedy will continue to affect Cambodian society and politics moving forward into the future.

Famine and Justice in Cambodia: What Have we Learned?
As this radio program nears completion, so too does the historic first trial in Case 002 at the ECCC. The Court’s Trial Chamber recently heard closing arguments in that case against the two remaining accused: Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. While the first trial in Case 002 focused on alleged crimes related to the evacuation of Phnom Penh and other events early in the Khmer Rouge period, at various times during this trial issues related to famine and starvation, such as food allocation, the exportation of rice and general agricultural and food distribution policies were discussed during the testimony of key witnesses. Nevertheless, due to the limited scope of the first Case 002 trial, the Trial Chamber will not cover the issues of famine and starvation directly in its ultimate judgment, which is expected to be release in mid-2014. Instead, issues

of general living conditions throughout the countryside, including starvation and overwork, will only be fully explored at the ECCC should the Court proceed with additional trials in Case 002. As noted by current ECCC International Co-Prosecutor William Smith, completion of the first Case 002 trial is “just the beginning. The regime got worse and worse. The next trial should get off the ground far more quickly. It’s extremely important these charges are heard. Only one third of the story has been told.” Thus, despite the achievement of reaching the end of the first Case 002 trial, it remains unclear whether the Court, and its defendants, will survive to see the completion of further trials.

Nonetheless, the very experience of hearing evidence in open court has helped both Cambodians and the international community to better understand daily life under the Khmer Rouge and how and why the Khmer Rouge leaders led the nation they claimed to be rescuing from corruption and foreign interference down the path to mass suffering and death.

Evidence from the trial, along with other research on the Khmer Rouge period and surviving documents and oral histories, strongly suggest that the Khmer Rouge leaders wanted to turn Cambodia in a model socialist country at an impossibly fast speed. These leaders also pursued an unrealistically pure form of socialism, in the process banning even the most minor aspects of individuality and property ownership, such as personal gardens, the act of cooking and private family meals, as vestiges of privatism. These leaders appear to have been motivated by a desire to revolutionize Cambodia more purely and rapidly than the two revolutions they measured themselves against: those in China and Vietnam. Moreover, apparently offended by what they perceived to be the attempted domination of local socialist revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia by the Vietnamese-dominated Indochinese Communist Party and the imperialist intentions of the West, the Khmer Rouge leadership decided to close Cambodia’s border and practice extreme self- reliance.

The results of this rapid drive for a pure and jealously independent socialist overhaul of Cambodian society was the near-absolute destruction of Cambodian society and the decimation of its civilian population through executions and horrific living conditions, including mass famine and starvation. While it is unlikely that criminal accountability will ever be achieved specifically for the famine enforced on the civilian population by the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979, this fact does not mean that history should forget this tragedy or label it merely as a non-criminal catastrophe, comparable to an earthquake or flood that causes mass suffering and death. Instead, this program has argued that the Khmer Rouge famine should be remembered and discussed in criminal terms, specifically using the language of crimes against humanity.

The Legacy of the Khmer Rouge Famine
It has been nearly 35 years since the end of the Khmer Rouge’s reign in power in Cambodia. Despite over a quarter-century having passed since this dark period of Cambodian history, the repercussions of the destruction wrought by the Khmer Rouge, including through enforcing famine conditions, continue to deeply affect Cambodian society and politics to this day. For survivors of the Khmer Rouge period, suffering through such an extreme and long famine continues to deeply affect both their physical and mental health. Birth-rates also fell due to famine during the Khmer Rouge period, meaning that many families not only lost living members to the ravages of famine, but would have also added new members between 1975 and 1979, who would now be adults. Finally, the few children who were born during the Khmer Rouge period to starving mothers have faced lifelong increased health risks due to the physical traumas their mothers experienced during pregnancy, as medical studies have linked various health problems to children born to starving mothers.

In addition to these direct consequences on individual survivors and their families, the collective experience of the Khmer Rouge period famine has surely had a profound effect on Cambodian society and politics. When the Khmer Rouge period ended, a deeply traumatized nation plagued by continuing conflict struggled to pull itself back together. For decades, the threat of violence and memories of starvation helped to shape the focus of many Cambodians on everyday survival and make them understandably skeptical of political change, protests or anything else that might cause further unrest. When survivors of the Khmer Rouge period considered the pros and cons of protesting or making demands for better governance, they did so with vivid memories of the famine and terror that resulted the last time a group claiming to be the cure for corruption and inequality swept into power through revolution. A heavy emphasis was placed on stability and peace, sometimes at the expense of the development of better democratic institutions, responsible development and the protection of human rights.

As time has passed however, and some efforts have been made towards transitional justice, reconciliation and accountability for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period at the ECCC and though other efforts, the national wound that was the legacy of the Khmer Rouge for decades, appears to have begun to heal. There are law students in Cambodia keenly interested in issues of human rights, the rule of law and judicial independence. The health of Cambodia’s democracy has re-emerged as a subject of ongoing national discussion and debate. Cambodians who feel their human rights have been violated or that they have not been fully afforded their democratic rights have begun to publicly voice their dissatisfaction through non-violent protests and useful public dialogue. While in past decades, Cambodia was a nation traumatized into thinking only about day-to-day survival by a collective memory of hunger, deprivation and violence, there appears to be a growing will to dare to hope for more than mere survival and the absence of constant war and violence. Although still young and fragile, this growing demand for better governance and fairer development is a positive sign that Cambodia can, given time and continued effort, continue to heal the wounds of the Khmer Rouge period.

Listener Questions Answers by Randle DeFalco

  1. Why did the Khmer Rouge starve their people when they had produced a lot of crops? Where had those crops been transported to?
    • First, the Khmer Rouge planned to produce incredibly large crops of rice while in power, but these plans to produce three tons of rice per hectare were never successful while the Khmer Rouge were in power, so rice crops were not nearly as large as planned. That being said, there is evidence suggesting that, while not massive, a significant rice crop was harvested each year during the Khmer Rouge period. Second, the Khmer Rouge’s economic plan was to independently transform Cambodia into a modern industrial country by selling rice on the international market to gain income to fund the regime’s goals. Thus, there was a large amount of pressure on local leaders to provide the Khmer Rouge central leadership with a lot of rice to support both the Khmer Rouge military and to sell to other countries in exchange for money and goods that could not be produced in Cambodia. Available evidence suggests that China was the recipient of most of the rice shipped out of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge
  1. Why did the Khmer Rouge put their people to hard work?
    • The Khmer Rouge stated that the regime’s official policy was one of “independence self-mastery” which meant that no foreign aid or assistance would be accepted. The regime also had plans for Cambodia to take a “super great leap forward” towards becoming a modern socialist country and wanted to achieve revolutionary goals at a faster rate than previous socialist revolutions, especially those in China and Vietnam. As a result, the Khmer Rouge leadership sought to rely on human labour alone to achieve massive agricultural and infrastructure projects, resulting in hard labour and extreme hours of
  1. Why did the Khmer Rouge kill their people?
      1. Why did the Khmer Rouge separate people from their family members?
        • The Khmer Rouge leaders knew that family ties are very strong in Cambodia and thought that people should be loyal to the revolution more than to their family These leaders saw family social structures as competing with their plan to turn Cambodia into a pure socialist state and therefore did not worry about separating people from their families. Another reason for these separations was the fact that the Khmer Rouge assigned people to be sent to wherever the revolution needed more human labour and no thought was given to keeping families together when assigning people to areas of the country.This is a difficult and complex question that has been considered by many scholars. The answer is that there were many factors that combined to create a situation where people were killed in very large numbers through both executions and living conditions, including famine. Generally, the Khmer Rouge leaders wanted to rapidly achieve a pure socialist revolution and believed that there were enemy agents, both foreign and within Cambodia, who were working to undermine the regime’s revolutionary As a result, 

          over time the leaders became more and more paranoid. Eventually, the leaders blamed all of their failed plans, for example the plan to achieve three tons of rice per hectare, on acts of sabotage by hidden “internal enemies.” Thus, whenever an area of the country failed to live up to the expectations of the Khmer Rouge leaders, this area would likely be violently purged. In this way violence and living conditions both spiraled out of control and resulted in so much killing.

      1. Why didn’t people rebel against the Khmer Rouge?

      It is impossible to know why people did not rebel against the Khmer Rouge, but there are likely several reasons why they did not. First, the Khmer Rouge came into power quickly and immediately spread people throughout the countryside, making it difficult for people to form groups to oppose the powerful Khmer Rouge military. Second, even on the local level, people were constantly watched by Khmer Rouge cadres and if they were caught saying anything bad about the revolution, they could be put in prison, beaten or even executed. This made it even harder for people to organize any rebellion. Third, people were overworked to the point of near death during the Khmer Rouge period. Because people were so weakened from overwork and lack of food, it is likely that they were simply too exhausted and weak to fight back, but focused all of their energy on simply surviving each day. Fourth, there were armed Khmer Rouge cadres throughout the countryside and local people did not have the weapons to effectively fight cadres who had guns and other weapons. In one village, a group of Cham Muslims did rebel against the Khmer Rouge after some of their local leaders were executed and they were banned from praying or otherwise practicing their religion. However, this rebellion was doomed to failure because the rebels mostly only had swords, while the Khmer Rouge had guns and other weapons. After the rebellion, almost everyone who had fought back was put in prison, tortured and executed.

      1. Has the Khmer Rouge Tribunal brought justice to the Khmer Rouge victims?
        • As of now the Khmer Rouge Tribunal has entered one verdict against Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch and is in the process of the trial of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge leaders. The meaning of justice is a very personal thing however, and it is up to each survivor of the Khmer Rouge period and indeed, every Cambodian citizen, to decide for themselves whether they are satisfied with the work of the

      Questionsreceived from:

      • Ouch Sokserey Monika, Preah Vihear Province
      • Pheaktra, Preah Vihear Province
      • Sophea, Preah Vihear Province

This concludes the tenth and final episode of the Documentation Center radio series on famine under the Khmer Rouge.

If you have any comment or question, please send your letter to Mr. Men Pechet, an organizer of DC-Cam’s radio program, at house number 66, Preah Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, or send to P.O Box 1110, Phnom Penh, or call to 023-211-875 or fax to 023-210-358. Email: truthmpechet@dccam.org. Thank you.

(Khmer language)

A History of Democratic Kampuchea, 1975 -1979

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