ArticlePDF Available

No Justice, No Peace? National Reconciliation and Local Conflict Resolution in Cambodia



The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is expected by many in the international community to bring a sense of reconciliation to a nation still grappling with the aftermath of more than thirty years of civil war. Yet the gap between national and local reconciliation initiatives tests post-conflict reconstruction efforts to meet the needs of Cambodian citizens who feel unconnected to the tribunal. This article inquires into the interrelationship between national reconciliation processes and grassroots peacebuilding in the form of conflict resolution trainings. Noting that retributive justice processes cannot take the place of restorative justice, genuine reconciliation in Cambodia will need to incorporate culturally-based ritual derived from Buddhism in order to be relevant to local people. The Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID), a Cambodian NGO, serves as a case study for the successes and obstacles to local peacebuilding initiatives.
Mneesha Gellman
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is expected by many in the
international community to bring a sense of reconciliation to a
nation still grappling with the aftermath of more than thirty
years of civil war. Yet the gap between national and local rec-
onciliation initiatives tests post-conflict reconstruction efforts
to meet the needs of Cambodian citizens who feel unconnect-
ed to the tribunal. This article inquires into the interrelation-
ship between national reconciliation processes and grassroots
peacebuilding in the form of conflict resolution trainings.
Noting that retributive justice processes cannot take the place
of restorative justice, genuine reconciliation in Cambodia will
need to incorporate culturally-based ritual derived from Bud-
dhism in order to be relevant to local people. The Khmer
Institute of Democracy (KID), a Cambodian NGO, serves as a
case study for the successes and obstacles to local peacebuild-
ing initiatives.
Key words: conflict resolution, Cambodia, NGO programs,
human rights - East Asia
Vol. 32, No. 2, 2008, pp. 37-57.
Cambodia today stands at a historic crossroad. The Extraor-
dinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), commonly
referred to as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT), opened in 2007
after many years of accumulated expectations. While the KRT is
poised to deliver retributive justice at the national level, it may
leave the majority of Cambodians bereft of an experience of
restorative justice, namely reconciliation in their local communi-
ties. This article explores the gap between national and local
healing by asking the question: What is the relationship between
national reconciliation and local, grassroots-level peacebuilding
efforts in the form of conflict resolution trainings? Through a
case study of the Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID) in Phnom
Penh, Cambodia, I examine nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) that are providing civil society with conflict-focused
capacity building to complement the elite, retributive justice
mechanism of the KRT. I describe my quest to identify tools and
techniques to culturally integrate democratic practice and con-
flict resolution techniques that honor indigenous knowledge
and stress the possibility that these trainings could enhance rec-
onciliation efforts nationally.
I address the question by first unpacking the dynamic
between former victims, perpetrators, and alienated community
members in a brief historical review of the Cambodian conflict. I
then present barriers to reconciliation in the post-conflict politi-
cal environment. The example of KID is next drawn upon to
highlight the role of NGOs in civil society capacity building,
with specific attention to the potential for conflict resolution
training to facilitate reconciliation. I present Buddhism and
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as tools to move local
communities toward their own healing processes and thereby
contribute to genuine national reconciliation. The article con-
cludes with a positive assessment of the ability for localized
capacity building to contribute to national reconciliation. Foster-
ing local cultures of peace with increased awareness and utiliza-
tion of the power of communication may be the path to Cambo-
dia’s psychosocial rehabilitation.
38 Mneesha Gellman
Contextualizing Violence: The Legacy of the Khmer Rouge
Cambodia does not have a gentle past. In the last half centu-
ry its people have experienced violence from the U.S. bombings
during the Vietnam War from 1965 to 1973, followed by two
epochs of civil war, most notably from 1975 to 1979, when more
than a million Cambodians, at least one of every eight citizens,
died from starvation, overwork, or execution under the Khmer
Rouge regime.1The idealistic teenagers and former schoolteach-
ers who fueled the Khmer Rouge movement saw forced revolu-
tion as the only antidote to U.S. imperialism. Yet their agenda of
gender and age-divided collective living and hard labor impact-
ed the country long after their overthrow in 1979 and beyond
the subsequent decade of Vietnamese occupation.
In 1991, after twelve years of guerilla warfare, conflicting
factions signed the Paris Peace Accords. But more was needed to
maintain the ceasefire. Cambodia was administered by the Unit-
ed Nations Transitional Authority (UNTAC) until September
1993, at which point Prince Norodom Sihanouk accepted the
newly designed constitution. He became king, and UNTAC-
administered elections were held.2Current Prime Minister Hun
Sen enacted a bloody coup to oust his co-prime minister in 1997,
and despite the existence of multiple political parties and
reports of free and fair elections by UNTAC, Cambodian democ-
racy still has a long road ahead. Importantly, there has not been
any authentic national reconciliation concerning the Khmer
Rouge perpetrators and their victims, nor has this type of heal-
ing been mainstreamed at the local level. In fact, there is an
annual “Day of Anger,” sometimes translated as a “Day of
Hatred,” to express emotion around the genocide. Even small
shifts, such as changing the day to one of “Remembrance,”
could help transform the national psyche, but there has been lit-
tle leadership around this issue.3
No Justice, No Peace? 39
1. David Chandler, The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War, and Rev-
olution Since 1945 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991), p. 1.
2. Zhou Mei, Radio UNTAC of Cambodia: Winning Ears, Hearts and Minds
(Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 1994), pp. xiii-xiv.
3. Laura McGrew, “Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Peace in Cambodia:
20 Years after the Khmer Rouge,” Canadian Embassy, Phnom Penh
Today, the older generation that survived the Khmer Rouge
genocide remains shell-shocked, whether living in the extended
diaspora in Southern California, Minneapolis, and France, or
persevering near the same rice fields where they were forced to
farm by Khmer Rouge comrades. Many elders refuse to rehash
history because of the nightmares it unleashes, but others feel
the need to pass their stories on to their children in hope of pre-
venting future violence.4Yet, Prime Minister Hun Sen has fos-
tered a culture of impunity by pardoning several high-level for-
mer Khmer Rouge leaders and appointing them to national gov-
ernment posts.
History—the essential memory-keeper of society—is per-
ceived as unjust by the grassroots when a culture of impunity is
modeled by leaders.5While a mixed national and international
Khmer Rouge Tribunal opened in 2007 to hold former Khmer
Rouge leaders accountable for their crimes, it has been repeated-
ly contested by Sen and other Cambodian elites. There is consid-
erable debate (or even doubt) about whether a tribunal at this
point will actually facilitate reconciliation, or simply serve the
need for retributive justice. Others question whether a truth and
reconciliation commission or alternative community-based sur-
vivors’ forum would be more effective in relieving past trauma.6
Meanwhile, NGO surveys show that the majority of Cambodi-
ans want national reconciliation to take place in some manner so
that lessons from the past can be incorporated into the collective
Cambodian conscious.7
Significantly, for a country that has 33 percent of its citizens
under the age of 15,8many children do not believe the suffering
40 Mneesha Gellman
(1999-2000), p. 36.
4. See Dith Pran, ed., Children of Cambodia’s Killing Fields: Memoirs by Sur-
vivors (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997).
5. Wendy Lambourne, “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Meeting Human
Needs for Justice and Reconciliation,” Peace, Conflict and Development,
vol. 4 (April, 2004), p. 5.
6. See, for example, Suzannah Linton, Reconciliation in Cambodia (Phnom
Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2004).
7. Center for Social Development, The Khmer Rouge and National Reconcilia-
tion-Opinions from the Cambodians (Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2002).
8. Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook: Cambodia, online at www.
their parents describe because it is too impossible to imagine
that Khmers could kill other Khmers.9Furthermore, the Cambo-
dian government has never reached a decision about which ver-
sion of history is appropriate to teach school children.10 The per-
petual revising and recalling of texts adds to the confusion for
youth about what they should believe: As recently as 2001, a
new section on Khmer Rouge events was added to 12th grade
social science texts but the book was recalled by the Cambodian
national government and re-released without the Khmer Rouge
section.11 This situation has led to a dangerous loss of memory
in the collective Cambodian context.
NGOs, meanwhile, are stepping in to run education cam-
paigns about the Khmer Rouge and to do outreach around the
KRT, but they have also identified wider goals for their work,
including peacebuilding. KID has produced a poster series
explaining how the KRT works, as well as a documentary about
the Khmer Rouge era. KID staff conduct information sessions
about the KRT in each community where posters are hung and
the documentary screened. This forum for information dissemi-
nation taps into KID’s larger objective of increasing awareness
of human rights throughout the country.12 In addition to KID’s
conflict resolution trainings discussed later, such activities offer
tools for empowerment that contribute to growing cultures of
Peacebuilding, the construction of healthy, sustainable, and
non-violent relationships in the aftermath of war, requires
attending not only to memory and reconciliation but also to
building the capacity of people to meet their own needs and
those of their families. Capacity building can incorporate a range
No Justice, No Peace? 41
9. “Khmer” is the Anglicized word for indigenous, ethnically Cambodian
people. Cambodia’s population is 90 percent Khmer, 5 percent Viet-
namese, 1 percent Chinese, and 4 percent “other” according to the U.S.
Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook: Cambodia, online at www. Con-
cerning the views of children, see the documentary of the Open Society
Justice Institute, Seeing Proof, Phnom Penh, Tara Urs, Producer, 2006.
10. Linton, Reconciliation in Cambodia, p. 176.
11. See ibid. for more details.
12. See KID’s online site at for
more details.
of skills such as the comprehension and implementation of the
rule of law, domestic violence prevention, or education about
democratic rights of participation and subsequent voter registra-
tion drives. These skills are generally passed down through
intensive trainings or seminars where the basic concepts are pro-
vided and then examples of how to implement them in daily life
are worked out in group activities. NGOs such as KID provide
training to civil society members and elected officials alike in
basic human rights, democracy education, and other foundational
peacebuilding skills. This form of peacebuilding—building basic
cultural norms around social behavior—can serve as the medium
by which grassroots citizens become empowered to create cul-
tures of peace at the village level.
Cultures of peace offer a basis for multitudes of cultural tra-
ditions to interdependently create reality though nonviolent
means. The central claim of this article is that when incorporated
as components of macro-level peace processes, peacebuilding
skills can pave the way for national reconciliation. However,
this is no easy task, and there are myriad cultural and political
barriers inhibiting this process. I next describe a selection of
these challenges to contextualize the efforts of NGOs in peace-
building work.
Barriers to Reconciliation: Lacking the Will to Reconcile
In the larger framework of peacebuilding, NGO mobiliza-
tion of grassroots communities may equal preparation for recon-
ciliation in ways that a tribunal or truth commission could not.
But the national government must also bear some of the respon-
sibility for facilitating reconciliation processes, in part because
many Cambodians perceive the government as the central con-
duit for the history of violence they have experienced. Cambodi-
an citizens see the national reconciliation process as being inte-
grally linked with changing individual and social behavior,
which is the essence of training in conflict resolution skills.13
Peacebuilding incorporates the idea that structural violence can
be deconstructed through social justice.14 Obtaining justice with-
42 Mneesha Gellman
13. Linton, Reconciliation in Cambodia, p. 183.
14. Steve Utterwulghe, “Conflict Management in Complex Humanitarian
out national participation is therefore unlikely.
Thus, the Cambodian national government must take part
in peacebuilding efforts in some concrete way to ensure struc-
tural capacity. Rhetorical or superficial commitment to capacity
will not work. This article supports the maxim “think globally,
act locally,” in that I put forth the idea that local cultures of
peace could potentially grow out of successful village-level con-
flict resolution trainings, which in turn assist the facilitation of
the national reconciliation process. Local and national actors
may operate in separate realms, but the issues they are engaged
with transcend community boundaries through extended social
webs as well as political and economic relationships.
Government Barriers
Historically, tribunals have been used to obtain retributive
justice, while truth commissions have been created for restora-
tive justice. Though reconciliation may be easier for victims
when perpetrators have been held accountable in some way, the
reconciliation process is a restorative rather than retributive
approach. In Cambodia, the national government has shown
official pardons of former Khmer Rouge leaders as evidence of
its efforts to reconcile, ignoring the fact that such pardons were
politically charged and worked in the interest of the dominant
Cambodia People’s Party (CPP).
At the same time, the notoriously corrupt legal system in
Cambodia has not been able to provide conflict resolution train-
ing sought after by community leaders charged with rebuilding
social order in their jurisdictions. The weakness of the legal sys-
tem in general is a major hindrance to reconciliatory measures
being supported by the rule of law. Disputes that require juridi-
cal resolution often whither in the wait to legally address griev-
ances. Some are more quickly “solved” by violence within the
community. Though in a 2003 speech Senior Minister Sok An
called for restorative justice, no such measures have actually
been proposed.15 Financial constraints, lack of motivation, and
No Justice, No Peace? 43
Situations: Peacemaking and Peacebuilding Work with Angolan IDPs,”
Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 17 (2004), p. 234.
15. An’s speech cited in Linton, Reconciliation in Cambodia, p. 89.
underdeveloped legal frameworks may all be reasons for the
absence of both central and local government participation in
fomenting reconciliation. None of these reasons, however,
diminish the importance of reconciliation.
Because the national government does not appear to have
the resources or the will to facilitate meaningful national recon-
ciliation, it has chosen instead to allow the upcoming Khmer
Rouge Tribunal to occur in hopes that this will satisfy the needs
of surviving victims through retributive justice mechanisms.
Yet, the KRT remains a punitive measure: It does not require
conflict to be resolved or transformed, but instead pacifies sur-
vivors and the international community by showing that the
culture of impunity is being addressed.
More disturbingly, in an analysis made on January 21, 1999,
Prime Minister Hun Sen declared: “The national reconciliation
in Cambodia, which was the source of peace and stability, had
been fulfilled once and for all.”16 Sen gave no details as to how
he perceived reconciliation being fulfilled, nor did he make a
convincing argument as to why others should feel reconciled.
Senior Minister Hor Namhong, in a 2001 speech, superficially
echoed this sentiment, stating that “Cambodia has secured and
maintained political stability through the concerted efforts of
national reconciliation and coalition building.”17 The repeated
claims of government officials that reconciliation has already
happened and that the KRT will fill in any remaining gaps illu-
minate the deficit of care for psychosocial healing across the
country. The misuse of transitional justice terminology by the
national government, whether accidental or deliberate, has dis-
tracted the debate from the core needs in Cambodia.
Attempting to stimulate dialogue and make these needs vis-
ible, KID has posited conflict resolution training as a way to
address local leadership in reconciliation, all the while advocat-
ing for the KRT as a basic justice mechanism. NGOs such as KID
attempt to fill the need for grassroots capacity building despite
resources being stretched thin. However able to assist in grow-
ing local empowerment, they are unable individually to rectify
the structural trauma that a national reconciliation process could
44 Mneesha Gellman
16. Sen in “Cambodia New Vision,” cited ibid., p. 225.
17. Namhong at the National Conference on Peace, cited ibid.
In a survey by the Documentation Center of Cambodia,
about 59 percent of all participants said they still thought about
the past, with 52 percent admitting having current problems
because of the past killings.18 The need for psychosocial healing
in Cambodia remains, but actors are approaching this need from
divergent standpoints. The national government’s reluctance
genuinely to examine past grievances through dialogue does not
create the space citizens need to revitalize their social contract.
Instead, the government is relying on retributive justice to prove
that it is addressing Cambodia’s past, while claiming that recon-
ciliation has already been achieved.
Retributive and restorative justice need not be mutually
exclusive. Many at the community and grassroots level want to
have an honest and accurate understanding of history and hold
perpetrators accountable while proactively constructing healthy
communities. Ideally, justice and reconciliation processes would
mutually support each other in Cambodia, rather than be pre-
sented as an either/or decision. As argued by Lederach, the
point of reconciliation is to “create a time and a place, within
various levels of the affected population, to address, integrate,
and embrace the painful past and the necessary shared future as
a means of dealing with the present.”19
The tension around reconciliation is not unique to Cambo-
dia but serves as a reminder to both the academic and practi-
tioner peacebuilding communities that the process is con-
tentious. Stakeholders may have different and contradictory
visions as to how peacebuilding should be approached, but they
must find ways to work together for the process to succeed.
Post-conflict governments need to support peacebuilding activi-
ties to make the process endemic, and Cambodia, despite
proclamations from its leaders to the contrary, still has work to
do in fostering national reconciliation.
No Justice, No Peace? 45
18. Cited ibid., p. 225.
19. John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided
Societies (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997),
p. 35.
Social Barriers
The national government’s will does not pose the only bar-
rier to reconciliation, however. Socially, Cambodia maintains
elements of rigid, patrimonial, authority-based governance that
prize political party patronage, stability, and status. One dis-
turbing example of this is Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recruitment
of former Khmer Rouge leaders into the CPP in the post-UNTAC
transition period, an act of political party patronage that granted
status to those leaders in exchange for their party loyalty and,
arguably, national stability. This came to pass because former
Khmer Rouge leaders “understood by 1994 that their only hope
of enjoying any power in the country was to become a legitimate
political party.”20 Patronage in the form of pacification came
when former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary was granted royal
pardon in exchange for defecting from the Khmer Rouge. He
was then courted by Sen’s CPP and Prince Ranariddh’s FUNC-
INPEC (Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Independant,
Neutre, Pacifique, et Cooperatif) and given free rein over Pailin
In a 2001 survey by the Center for Advanced Studies, 56 per-
cent of Cambodians reported that the government is like a father
and the people like children, showing how ingrained the pater-
nalistic view of politics is.22 Such paternalism challenges the
capacity of the national government and donor community to
invest in long-term peacebuilding driven by civil society, since
the power is already concentrated in the state. Also, the lengthy
time frame of the peacebuilding process is often at odds with
meeting people’s basic, immediate needs including food security,
health services, and human rights guarantees. This time frame
clash, in conjunction with the national government’s lack of
expertise and agenda autonomy, corruption, and paternalism,
creates an impediment to peacebuilding. Such low capacity is an
46 Mneesha Gellman
20. Elizabeth Becker, When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge
Revolution (New York: PublicAffairs, 1998), p. 515.
21. Ibid.
22. T. Meisburger, Democracy in Cambodia: A Survey of the Cambodian Elec-
torate (Phnom Penh: Center for Advanced Study and The Asia Founda-
tion, 2001), p. 4.
ingredient in the perpetuation of cultures of violence and illus-
trates the need to link capacity building with reconciliation.
Improved democratic capacity at the national level might
assist in rebuilding trust and enthusiasm at the local levels,
especially as curbing corruption, guiding sustainable develop-
ment, building staff knowledge, and democratic relations are
modeled by the national government. Conversely, building trust
at the community level will give government the much needed
social capital to implement peacebuilding agendas. Support by
infrastructure such as competent leadership and democratic
organizations that encourage public input and participation can
motivate people to develop a positive vision of the future rather
than cling to past grievances.
Yet strict hierarchy not only challenges the national and
local government level, it compromises NGOs as well.23 Anoth-
er social barrier to reconciliation can be seen in individual and
group behavior, for example, in the Cambodian peoples’ defer-
ence to the guidance of those who are older or are monks.24 This
poses problems for young NGO staff who have new ideas they
want to share with their usually older bosses. The trend of
authoritarian old-style governance commanding more respect
informs the teaching methodology of younger NGO trainers
who need to establish respect with trainees who are their elders.
With both bosses and clients, NGO staff face formidable chal-
lenges in rewriting Cambodia’s oppressive communication code
that continues to limit the creative space for dialogue that is
available to civil-society actors.
The quest to model internally the policies promoted exter-
nally could be undertaken by NGOs and governments alike to
combat the negative elements of paternalism while promoting
real democratic equality.25 For NGOs to serve as advocates in
this way, however, they must manage their own interactions in
No Justice, No Peace? 47
23. SPM Consultants, “Civil Society and Uncivilized Politics: Trends and
Roles of the Cambodian Civil Society and Possibilities for Sida Sup-
port,” The Eighth Report of the Sida Advisory Team (SAT) on Democratic
Governance in Cambodia (Stockholm and Phnom Penh: Sida Advisory
Team, 2006), pp. 12-13.
24. Thanak Sovutha, Deputy Director, The Alliance for Conflict Transfor-
mation, interview with the author, Phnom Penh, December 18, 2006.
25. SPM Consultants, “Civil Society and Uncivilized Politics.”
empowering ways even as they work under the pressure of
donor agendas and timelines as well as problematic sociocultur-
al norms. One moderate success story is that of the Khmer Insti-
tute of Democracy and its conflict resolution training program
for civil-society members who have offered to serve as commu-
nity resources for their peers. I now offer their story as an exam-
ple of how local-level initiatives are attempting to fill the gap
between the lives of ordinary Cambodian citizens and the
national justice and reconciliation project.
The Khmer Institute for Democracy:
Increasing Conflict Resolution Capacity
Reconciliation and conflict resolution activities are emotion-
laden and culturally embedded, providing both hope and chal-
lenges for those involved. As discussed in the preceding section,
there is a palpable need for reconciliation in Cambodia, but con-
necting all the actors necessary to make reconciliation happen
(including the national government, former Khmer Rouge per-
petrators, survivors from the older generation, youth, neutral
third parties, mentors, and advocates) is a staggering and costly
task. KID’s approach of offering conflict resolution trainings to
motivated local volunteers is a potentially sustainable model for
addressing the challenging task of reconciliation.
The Khmer Institute for Democracy is housed in a barbed
wire compound in a section of Phnom Penh that contains dozens
of neatly pressed expatriates zipping around on motorbikes
with briefcases balanced on their laps. A Cambodian-staffed
organization operating on international funding, KID provides
training to elected officials, typically the Commune Councilors
brought into office with Cambodia’s recent decentralization of
governance. It also trains grassroots community leaders and
members of their Citizen Advisors Network (CAN). I served as
a Conflict Resolution Trainer at KID from December 2006 to
February 2007. During this time, I designed training curricula
for CAN members and Commune Councilors, trained NGO
staff in communication and teaching methodology, and studied
the potential to blend indigenous and Western dispute-resolu-
tion mechanisms.
48 Mneesha Gellman
CAN is a KID-established group of nearly 200 volunteers in
nine provinces, mostly schoolteachers and administrators, who
have offered to serve as resource point people, mentors, and
conciliators for their local communities. Before working in this
capacity, Citizen Advisors attend several KID training sessions
in topics such as land law, family law and domestic violence,
and democracy and human rights. The purpose of CAN (as I see
it) is to increase the information resources of a community so
that if Commune Councilors are not seen as neutral, residents
can bring queries and conflicts to the Citizen Adviser instead.
Additionally, if the councilors themselves need more information
on a topic, Citizen Advisers (theoretically) would have the train-
ing to consult with them and thus avoid the lengthy process of
contacting a resource person in the national government. Citizen
Advisors write regular reports about their interactions with
councilors and community members so that KID can chart their
work, offer feedback, and monitor the impact of their capacity-
building efforts.
Drawing on these reports, I identified family violence and
land disputes as the two greatest causes of conflict in rural
provinces. By creating culturally appropriate role-plays, small-
group activities, and nonviolent communication exercises, my
training curricula was a small addition to the canon of material
from which KID pieced together its capacity-building trainings.
The challenges for cultural outsiders like me to participate in the
conflict resolution process loom large, but by meeting them with
an open mind, an interchange of information can occur. My
enthusiasm for the potential of Buddhist ritual to be fused with
alternative dispute resolution came from meeting with commu-
nity leaders already versed in the former but seeking out train-
ing in the latter. The following section sketches the unique way
that ADR and other conflict resolution processes are being put
to the test in Cambodian civil society, and offers suggestions on
how to move forward.
Buddhism, Communication, and Peacebuilding
In this section, I present Buddhist and Western notions of
conflict resolution and promote hybrid training for expanding
No Justice, No Peace? 49
village-level empowerment in approaches to conflict that can
address entrenched patterns of violence lingering since the civil
war. I argue that these trainings, in addition to the education
project and community forums mentioned in previous sections,
are important to culturally contextualize the KRT and extend the
justice of a national trial into the social transformation mecha-
nisms that can foster reconciliation at the village level. Acknowl-
edging the tension between Buddhist ways of repairing social
wounds and punitive techniques favored by the West, the stage
is set to explore complementary processes to the KRT and their
potential for both bringing justice to and promoting reconcilia-
tion in Cambodia.
Fusing Buddhist Precepts with Western Approaches
Khmer social organization and communication systems
require a conflict transformation and reconciliation approach
that avoids the commonplace pitfalls of uniform, Western-cen-
tric approaches. Alternative dispute resolution alone is not ade-
quate for the cultural context of Cambodia, but rather a fusion of
ADR with traditional Cambodian conflict resolution mecha-
nisms as seen through Buddhist institutions and rituals could
shape the reconciliation process.
The strongest consistent cultural characteristic in Cambodia
is Theravada Buddhism, which persevered through the repres-
sion of religion under the Khmer Rouge. Nearly 95 percent of
Cambodians identify as Buddhist26 and the teachings have
much to say about ethical guidelines for living, including “right
speech,” and the precept of not lying. Many Cambodians have
re-embraced their religion even more vigorously after the Khmer
Rouge’s attempt to wipe it out, and the pagoda or temple remains
the hub of social, educational, and spiritual activities in many
Buddhist doctrine has much to say about justice and recon-
ciliation. From the Buddhist perspective, justice is not a neces-
sary ingredient in socio-political relationships as long as people
hold the “right intention” to correct their mistakes. Wrong per-
ceptions, those that stray from the teachings of loving-kindness,
50 Mneesha Gellman
26. Central Intelligence Agency, World Factbook: Cambodia.
lead to wrong actions. Therefore, if Khmer Rouge leaders would
admit the truth of their actions and seek to correct them, some
assume Cambodians would forgive them on the basis of the
Buddhist code of conduct.27 Since there has been no recognition
of “wrong action,” let alone remorse on the part of former
Khmer Rouge leaders, Buddhist doctrine is, to some extent, mar-
ginalized in the demand for Western-style justice from the KRT.
Instead of voluntary right action, justice as defined by retribu-
tive or punitive action seeks to enforce right action (in this con-
text confession of the truth, remorse, and apology) onto the per-
petrators. Yet in Buddhist teachings, right action is a voluntary
behavior that can only be mandated by one’s individual inten-
tion. A tension is therefore present between Buddhist forgive-
ness, which may be more easily paired with restorative justice,
and retributive justice that the KRT seeks to hand down.
Some NGOs have found that using Buddhist teachings
about moral behavior helps culturally situate human rights con-
cepts, and this outreach strategy has led to advocacy for mutual-
ly respectful relationships and nonviolent action.28 Thus, mod-
ern adaptation of ancient religious teachings may serve as a
bridge between Buddhist practice and Western notions of
human rights and democratic accountability. Compassion, the
fundamental underlying attribute of Buddhist practice that is
supposed to permeate all other activities, can be a great attribute
in conflict resolution and reconciliation processes because it pro-
motes open listening and caring speech. The practice of loving-
kindness to help people abandon their wrong actions can be
paired with retributive responses from authorities to deter or
address wrong actions, according to one of Cambodia’s Bud-
dhist leaders.29
In this way the KRT, in conjunction with community-based
No Justice, No Peace? 51
27. Vannarith Chheang, “The Establishment of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal
and the Issue of Justice,” RCAPS Working Paper No. 06-2, online at
28. Judy Ledgerwood and Un Kheang, “Global Concepts and Local Meaning:
Human Rights and Buddhism in Cambodia,” Journal of Human Rights,
vol. 2 (2003), p. 546.
29. Wendy Lambourne, “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Meeting Human
Needs for Justice and Reconciliation,” Peace, Conflict and Development,
vol. 4 (April, 2004), p. 348.
dialogue and conflict resolution trainings supported by NGOs,
could be viewed as consistent with Buddhist approaches to
dealing with transgressions.30 In fact, Buddhism has much wis-
dom to offer about the presence of conflict as discussed in the
dharma, or teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist conceptions of
conflict discussed below are also useful for outsiders working in
Cambodia to better understand the philosophy behind the
actions of those with whom they engage. In my own experience
I found trainings that socially embed conflict resolution ideas in
culturally comfortable terminology and processes to be more
successful with Cambodian participants than strictly Western
ADR techniques.
The key to conflict resolution has been located by some
scholars in the noble truths of Buddhism.31 First, life is suffering
(and conflict is suffering); second, greed, hate, and delusion
cause conflict and suffering; third, suffering can be overcome
(and conflict can be resolved); and fourth, the way to do this is
through the eightfold path: right understanding, right thought,
right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right
mindfulness, and right concentration.32 McConnell identifies the
challenge of Buddhism in conflict resolution as lying in finding
how to follow the eightfold path in the midst of aggravating
conflicts.33 In a devout Buddhist society such as Cambodia that
has been ravaged by conflict at the national level and continues
to grapple with constant localized conflicts, turning to the eight-
fold path for guidance seems a viable strategy.
The Buddhist approach stands in contrast to ADR, nonvio-
lent communication, and other formula-based conflict resolution
processes that are popular among mediators and development
practitioners in Western countries. Such approaches carry
implicit assumptions about communication norms, conceptions
52 Mneesha Gellman
30. Ibid.
31. John McConnell, “Buddhism and Peacemaking: Western Conflict Reso-
lution and Buddhist Wisdom,” paper presented at the Conference on
Dispute Resolution in Cambodia: A Road to Peace and Reconciliation,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia, sponsored by the Cambodian Development
Resource Institute, Commission on Resources and Environment, UVic
Institute for Dispute Resolution, 1995.
32. Ibid., p. 28.
33. Ibid.
of time, sociological patterns, and legal frameworks of the affect-
ed communities. Conflict and its resolution are managed in cul-
turally situated ways, and therefore Western assumptions may
not function outside a Western framework.34 However, for those
donors and NGOs that are willing to spend time developing
hybrid approaches to conflict resolution, such joint Buddhist-
ADR approaches could be rewarding tools in the quest for rec-
The Virtues of a Diverse Approach for Reconciliation
Although Cambodian culture does represent traditional
social constructs, Khmer tradition was undermined in thirty
years of protracted violence and inevitably has led to the incor-
poration of foreign customs. After all, “Khmer traditions (as so
defined by both scholars and native Khmer) have long undergone
transformations wrought by both endogenous and exogenous
forces.”35 While some cultural norms do persist, others have
been reinvented or adapted by the various encounters Khmer
people have gone through.36 The flexibility in this environment
of hybridized ritual can allow for interesting reconciliation prac-
tices where diverse communication processes are fused to retain
the vital elements of each unique practice.
Thus, Buddhist ritual can be joined with aspects of ADR to
foster culturally situated conflict resolution. NGOs in Cambodia
are actively training citizens in this type of hybrid approach,
though more time is necessary before an evaluation can be con-
ducted of their effectiveness. The success of such local conflict
transformation techniques could serve as an important companion
to the KRT, because it offers personal involvement in conflict reso-
lution at the same time that the national government demon-
strates a commitment to bring accountability and closure to the
No Justice, No Peace? 53
34. Christine B. Harrington and Sally E. Merry, “Ideological Production:
The Making of Community Mediation,” Law & Society Review, vol. 22,
No. 4 (1988), p. 731.
35. Mary M. Ebihara, Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood, eds., Cam-
bodia Culture since 1975: Homeland and Exile (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Uni-
versity Press, 1994), p. 6.
36. Ibid., p. 22.
country’s historical conflict. These trainings can contextualize
the importance of the KRT for village-based Cambodians by
opening the discourse about what constitutes justice and how
reconciliation can be reached.
The role of conflict resolution as an element of peacebuilding
work on the path to national reconciliation is a challenging one.
First, one must establish who national reconciliation is for, who
will benefit from it, and why national participation in Cambodian
reconciliation efforts has been less than successful. Reconciliation
is a daunting task because it needs to involve all people at every
level of society. This encompasses “individual, inter-personal,
communal and national relations, and is tied into notions of
physical, political, socio-economic and cultural reintegration.”37
Essentially, reconciliation involves the broadest spectrum of
actors, and trainings in conflict resolution skills such as those I
was involved in through KID equip one type of actor with tools
to foster peace locally. Actors at the national level who engage
with civil society groups may observe the formation of cultures
of peace, and choose to continue the transformation within their
own spheres of influence.
Relatively straightforward from a Western standpoint, con-
flict resolution is difficult to culturally integrate into a Cambodi-
an post-conflict context.38 ADR’s Western framework of direct
communication styles and emotional processing threatens the
Cambodian tradition of avoiding conflict and choosing a ratio-
nal approach to emotive issues. Yet, ADR is a low-cost form of
non-juridical problem solving that has the potential to diminish
violence through increased communication in the Cambodian
provinces. By fusing ADR with culturally relevant Buddhist ritu-
als, conflict resolution may root itself as an embedded tradition
among those interested in community and national reconciliation.
54 Mneesha Gellman
37. Linton, Reconciliation in Cambodia, p. 106.
38. Interestingly, conflict resolution between Southeast Asian nations has
also had trouble being codified. The Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN) originally did not contain specific conflict management
tools; but the Bali Treaty, signed February 24, 1976, created Articles 14,
15, and 16 which designate a mediating body and shape international
dispute protocol. See Ramses Amer, “Conflict Management and Con-
structive Engagement in ASEAN’s Expansion,” Third World Quarterly,
vol. 20 (1999), pp. 1031-48 for further discussion.
Practically speaking, communication techniques such as
reflective listening, “I” statements, active listening, and creating
safe space for dialogue can shift the local psyche away from vio-
lence and toward a sustainable future of participation in, and
expectations of, democratic governance. But the long-term suc-
cess of conflict resolution will be seen in generational visions of
peace that often the original trainers and evaluators are not
around to see.39 As one of many peacebuilding processes span-
ning the spectrum of local, regional, and national activities, con-
flict resolution training can increase citizen capacity to be
empowered in their own lives. At the same time, training con-
tributes to national reconciliation by building trust and increas-
ing communication between community members who engage
in social, political, and economic relationships.
Conclusion: The Journey Toward Peace
In this article I have examined how KID, a Cambodian civil
society organization, is contributing to peacebuilding efforts via
conflict-resolution capacity building for civil society. In the
quest to restore a sense of harmony and reconciliation in Cam-
bodian society, local and national peacebuilding initiatives are
being coupled with the retributive justice process. The Khmer
Rouge Tribunal is an impunity-dispelling mechanism, but it is
not sufficient by itself to promote national reconciliation. On its
own, the KRT is at risk of appearing to be a mechanism of the
international community to impose justice. By combining the
KRT with community-based dialogue forums, conflict resolution
training and capacity building, the KRT can be situated within
Cambodian assumptions about what conflict is and how it
should be addressed.
Local peacebuilding initiatives facilitated by NGOs like KID
offer tools to culturally integrate democratic practice and con-
flict resolution techniques that honor indigenous knowledge.
Practical reforms in both government and NGO behavior need
also to be addressed in order not to derail Cambodia’s reconcili-
ation process.
No Justice, No Peace? 55
39. Lederach, Building Peace, pp. 76-77.
I have argued in this article that cultures of peace can emerge
from conscious communication skills typical of ADR practices,
and can act as grassroots catalysts to national dialogue and rec-
onciliation. When dispersed through structures such as KID’s
Citizen Advisors Network, peacebuilding techniques that gently
shift sociocultural boundaries support a more holistic reconcilia-
tion process in Cambodia. Though challenges abound, civil soci-
ety and government can and should work together to fulfill the
persistent local and national need for justice and reconciliation.
Principal References
Becker, Elizabeth. When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the
Khmer Rouge Revolution. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998.
Center for Social Development. The Khmer Rouge and National
Reconciliation: Opinions from the Cambodians. Phnom Penh,
Cambodia, 2002.
Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook: Cambodia. Online at
Chandler, David. The Tragedy of Cambodian History: Politics, War,
and Revolution Since 1945. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Uni-
versity Press, 1991.
Chheang, Vannarith. “The Establishment of the Khmer Rouge
Tribunal and the Issue of Justice,” RCAPS Working Paper
No. 06-2, 2006. Online at
Ebihara, Mary M., Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood,
eds. Cambodia Culture Since 1975: Homeland and Exile. Ithaca,
N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.
Harrington, Christine B. and Sally E. Merry. “Ideological Pro-
duction: The Making of Community Mediation,” Law &
Society Review, vol. 22, No. 4 (1988), pp. 709-36.
Lambourne, Wendy. Justice and Reconciliation: Postconflict Peace-
building in Cambodia and Rwanda. Doctoral dissertation,
University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2002.
_______. “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Meeting Human Needs for
Justice and Reconciliation,” Peace, Conflict and Development,
No. 4 (April, 2004), pp. 1-24.
56 Mneesha Gellman
Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in
Divided Societies. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute
of Peace Press, 1997.
Ledgerwood, Judy and Kheang Un. “Global Concepts and Local
Meaning: Human Rights and Buddhism in Cambodia,”
Journal of Human Rights, vol. 2 (2003), pp. 531-49.
Linton, Suzannah. Reconciliation in Cambodia. Phnom Penh, Cam-
bodia: Documentation Center of Cambodia, 2004.
McConnell, John. “Buddhism and Peacemaking: Western Conflict
Resolution and Buddhist Wisdom,” paper at the Confer-
ence on Dispute Resolution in Cambodia: A Road to Peace
and Reconciliation, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, sponsored by
the Cambodian Development Resource Institute, Commis-
sion on Resources and Environment, UVic Institute for Dis-
pute Resolution, 1995.
McGrew, Laura. “Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Peace in
Cambodia: 20 Years After the Khmer Rouge,” Phnom
Penh, Cambodia, Canadian Embassy, 1999-2000.
Mei, Zhou. Radio UNTAC of Cambodia: Winning Ears, Hearts and
Minds. Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 1994.
Meisburger, T. Democracy in Cambodia: A Survey of the Cambodian
Electorate. Phnom Penh: Center for Advanced Study and
The Asia Foundation, 2001.
SPM Consultants. “Civil Society and Uncivilized Politics: Trends
and Roles of the Cambodian Civil Society and Possibilities
for Sida Support,” The Eighth Report of the Sida Advisory
Team (SAT) on Democratic Governance in Cambodia. Stock-
holm and Phnom Penh: Sida Advisory Team, 2006.
Utterwulghe, Steve. “Conflict Management in Complex Human-
itarian Situations: Peacemaking and Peacebuilding Work
with Angolan IDPs,” Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 17
(2004), pp. 222-42.
No Justice, No Peace? 57
... Counter-intuitively, even some reparation programs might actually do harm prospects of reconciliation after war (Immler, 2012). And justice measures have proved in some postconflict cases not to be endpoints of conflict dynamics, but rather starting points of new cycles of bitter antagonism (Gellman, 2008;Vrbetic, 2013). 1 While not every type of memory, justice, truth, or even restoration measure actually contributes to overcome post-conflict polarization and division, more direct attempts to achieve reconciliation, bypassing more standard transitional justice prescriptions, have shown to have some promising results. ...
Full-text available
Ex-combatants, war victims, and violence-affected community members are typically forced to live together as neighbors in post-conflict settings. Cases all over the world accumulate evidence on the fact that living together after war is a far from a harmonic endeavor, and individuals usually rely on contention mechanisms to keep on with their daily lives while in proximity of former and present-day antagonists. While decades-long academic research has unveiled a series of favorable conditions under which interactions might generate positive effects on intergroup dispositions, they usually prescribe focusing less on touching upon divisive issues, and more on emphasizing in potentially bonding commonalities. By means of a randomized controlled experiment with former war antagonists in Colombia, we set to explore whether avoidance or addressing of the most sensitive issues affecting intergroup relations yield better results in terms of attitude change under favorable conditions. Experimental effects show that perspective-giving protocols are capable of containing polarization tendencies in intergroup discussions even when participants are incentivized to directly address their co-existence problems, while qualitative analysis points out at silences and other avoidance mechanisms as the participants’ key strategies to contain conflict when contentious topics flare up during discussions.
... The success of a post-conflict regime and its approach to transition is often judged, both by locals and by the international community, by its treatment of the past-how victims and perpetrators are treated as viewed by these groups, each other, and the society in general. 67 Reconciliation can play a role in providing an evaluation of this success. National experiences of armed conflict are highly diverse, but can be minimally understood as being destructive of social and civic trust and the rule of law. ...
Full-text available
This chapter re-examines reconciliation and the concept of just peace. Reconciliation is typically accepted as an aspirational goal, namely as a means to re-establish trust in norms, institutions, and civic community. Drawing on Dworkin’s theory of integrity, this chapter argues that reconciliation should be primarily understood as civic discourse in a post bellum context, namely as an instrument to empower affected victim-survivors and to identify legitimate areas of disagreement. Ultimately, this chapter argues the role of the international community in reconciliation, setting forth a holistic and critically engaged concept of it and the need of interdisciplinarity to assess such meaning.
... These values are derived through historical associations, contemporary use and future expectations, and coevolve and converge through landscape connections (Wardell-Johnson 2011;Ernoul and Wardell-Johnson 2015). As these values are important to people, they are often contested (Thirgood 1981;Gellman 2008). ...
After over 50000 years of interaction between Aboriginal people and changing climates, south-western Australia’s tall forests were first logged less than 200 years ago, initiating persistent conflict. Recent conservation advocacy has resulted in the protection of 49% of these tall forests in statutory reserves, providing an opportunity to implement and benefit from a growing moral consensus on the valuing of these globally significant, tall forest ecosystems. We analysed a cross-section of literature (63 papers, 118 statements) published on these forests over 187 years to identify values framing advocacy. We differentiated four resource-oriented discourses and three discourses giving primacy to social and environmental values over seven eras. Invasion sparked initial uncontrolled exploitation, with the Forests Act 1918 managing competing agricultural and timber advocacy. Following the Colonial and Country Life eras, industrial scale exploitation of the karri forest region resulted in reaction by increasingly broad sectors of society. Warming and drying in the 21st Century emphasises the importance of intact tall forest and the Indigenous Renaissance discourse. Vesting for a more comprehensive set of values would acknowledge a new moral consensus.
... Also, the Western style of retributive justice is not in line with Cambodia's cultural outlook on justice and reconciliation. Some argue that the tribunal's rules on enforcing corrective action do not complement the Theravada Buddhist teaching that the action should be voluntary through an acknowledgement of one's mistakes and an intention to amend those mistakes (Gellman 2008). Cambodia's religious perspective is more consistent with restorative justice, and the tribunal's retributive form of justice is insufficient to meet this local perspective. ...
This book interrogates the common perception that liberal peace is in crisis and explores the question: can the local turn save liberal peacebuilding? | Presenting a case for a liberal renaissance in peacebuilding, the work interrogates the assumptions behind the popular perception that liberal peace is in crisis. It re-examines three of the cases that ignited the debate – Cambodia, Kosovo, and Timor-Leste – and evaluates how these transitional administrations implemented their liberal mandates and how local involvement affected the conduct of their activities. In so doing, it reveals that these cases were neither liberal nor peacebuilding. It also demonstrates that while local involvement is imperative to peacebuilding, illiberal local involvement may prelude a return to an elite-centred status quo and reinforces or creates new forms of conflict and violence. Using both liberal and critical lenses, the author ultimately argues that the conceptual and operational departure from the holistic and comprehensive origins of liberal peacebuilding in fact paved the way for the crisis itself. | Drawing on analysis from in-depth field research and interviews, this book will be of much interest to students of peacebuilding, peacekeeping, statebuilding, security studies and International Relations in general. |
... Dies steht eindeutig im Kontrast zum buddhistischen Gerechtigkeitskonzept: "From the Buddhist perspective, justice is not a necessary ingredient in socio-political relationships as long as people hold the ‚right intention' to correct their mistakes" (Gellman 2008: 51, Hervorhebung vom Autor übernommen). Dies erklärt Ghosanandas Umgang mit den Roten Khmer: "[Ghosananda spendete] den Kämpfern und sogar Führern der Roten Khmer […] seinen Segen" (Weingardt 2007: 134). ...
... And when viewed from a legal viewpoint, reconciliation is considered to be the ultimate and almost automatic goal of transitional justice mechanisms (Huyse & Salter, 2008) such as truth telling, confession, memory, and forgiveness (Bloomfield, 2006;Meierhenrich, 2008), retributive and restorative justice measures (Szablowinski, 2008;Theissen, 2004), accountability (Encarnaci on, 2008;Gellman, 2008), and acknowledgment of the violence committed in the past (Hayner, 2002;Verdeja, 2009). ...
Full-text available
Discussion groups are a promising tool for bridging the divide between former conflict antagonists. However, such groups do not always produce the desired outcome of improved attitudes, even when they meet the conditions generally seen as favoring positive interaction. In this article, we examine specific discussion protocols that mitigate polarization risks while fostering reconciliation. Using a randomized, controlled design, we formed a pool of 429 ex-combatants and members of conflict-affected communities in Colombia. Participants were asked to join heterogeneous groups and discuss their proposals for the future of Colombia. Those who were randomly assigned to a perspective-giving treatment protocol (where they were asked to refer to their personal experience and perspective) consistently improved their inter-group attitudes, and by a proportionally higher percentage than those taking part under argumentation and control conditions. The positive effect was strongest for attitudes held by community members toward ex-combatants.
... 47 While the ECCC's rules provide enforcement for corrective action on those found guilty, it is not in line with the Theravada Buddhist teaching that the action should be vol- untary through the acknowledgement of one's mistakes and an intention to amend those mistakes. 48 The ECCC's forms of reparation are also not perceptive of Cambodia's social context. For example, the financial and individualised reparation attached to retributive justice is incompatible to the development and communal type the Cambodians seek and the kind of reparation, such as ceremonies, memorials, or social services, needed for the kind of harm experienced by the Cambodian society. ...
Full-text available
The critiques of the liberal peacebuilding framework led to recommendations of further enhancing local involvement during a peacebuilding process, including transitional justice. Previous studies highlight the importance of grounding transitional justice mechanisms on local contexts to better address the needs of victims in post-conflict societies. However, there are instances when local actors exploit the legitimacy of liberal institutions to advance their political interests or deny the pursuit of justice for the sake of short-term stability. This has happened in Cambodia, Kosovo and Timor-Leste when the decisions of the local elite failed to reflect the local aspirations for justice and reconciliation. This article raises caution over the potential pitfalls of exclusive local involvement in transitional justice.
Full-text available
The interplay between peace and justice plays an important role in almost any contemporary conflict. Peace and conflict studies have generally devoted more attention to conflict than to peace. Peace is often described in adjectives, such as negative/positive peace, liberal peace or democratic peace. But what elements make a peace just? Just war theory, peacebuilding, or transitional justice provide different perspectives on the dialectic relation between peace and justice and the methods of establishing peace after conflict. Experiences such as the Colombian peace process show that peace is increasingly judicialized. This volume analyses some of the situational, normative, and relational elements of peace in processes of transition. It explores six core themes: conceptual approaches towards just peace, macro-principles, the nexus to security and stability, protection of persons and public goods, rule of law and economic reform and accountability. It engages with understudied issues, such as the pros and cons of robust UN mandates, the link between environment protection and indigenous peoples, the treatment of illegal settlements, the feasibility of vetting practices or the protection labour rights in post-conflict economies. It argues that just peace requires only not negotiation, agreement and compromise (e.g., moderation), but contextual understandings of law, multiple dimensions of justice and strategies of prevention. It complements the two earlier volumes on the legal contours of jus post bellum, namely Just Post Bellum: Mapping the Normative Foundations (2014) and Environmental Protection and Transitions from Conflict to Peace: Clarifying Norms, Principles and Practices (2017).
Full-text available
This article considers ways people in Cambodia narrate the Khmer Rouge regime and its genocide outside the bounds of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Based on anthropological fieldwork, I explore how informants use ‘karma’ to discuss the genocide, and by doing so create their own understandings and lived experiences of that period of historical violence, understandings that do not fit neatly into the narrative modes created by the courts. By stepping outside the court, I consider ways of dealing with the genocide that exist beyond the international framework of transitional justice, thereby asking wider questions of what justice is and does. Rather than claiming a dichotomy between (inter)national and local forms of providing “justice” and dealing with genocide, I consider the different frameworks to be co-exisiting forms of global interaction; sometimes at odds with each other; sometimes complementary; often times unrelated but important companions.
Memories of violence, suffering and atrocities in Cambodia are today being pulled in different directions. A range of transitional justice practices have been put to work in the name of redressing, restoring and renewing memory. At the centre of this stage is the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), a hybrid tribunal established to prosecute the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, under which 1.6 million Cambodians died of hunger or disease or were executed. This book unpicks the way memory is reconstructed through appeals to a national memory, the legal reframing and coding of memories as crimes, and bids to locate personal memories within collective biographies. Analysing the techniques and interventions of the ECCC, as well as exploring the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the book explores the relationships in which Cambodian communities navigate memories of political violence. This book is essential for understanding transitional justice in Cambodia in, and beyond, the courtroom. Transitional Justice and Memory in Cambodia shows that the governing logic of transitional justice interventions - that societies are unable to 'deal with' memories of atrocity and violence without some form of transitional justice mechanism - neglects the complexity of memory and remembering in post-atrocity contexts and the agency of the subjects to which such mechanisms are addressed. Drawing on documentary sources, legal transcripts, interviews and participant observation data, the book situates transitional justice processes in Cambodia within a wider context of social and cultural memory politics, examining (old and new) conflicts of memory that have emerged between the varied accounts and uses of the past that exist in Cambodia now. As such, it will appeal to students and scholars in sociology, human rights, law and criminology.
Full-text available
Through an analysis of the structure of the community mediation movement in the United States and an ethnography of the practices of mediators in local programs, this paper examines how community mediation is made, and how it is ideologically constituted. The ideology of community mediation is produced through an interplay among three ideological projects or visions of community mediation and organizational models, and by the selection and differential use of mediators to handle cases. We argue that ideologies are formed through the mobilization of symbolic resources by groups promoting different projects. Central to the production of mediation ideology is a struggle over the symbolic resources of community justice and consensual justice. Although various groups propose differing conceptions of community justice, they share a similar commitment to consensual justice, and this similarity is produced through reinterpretations of the same symbols. The ambiguities in community mediation are, it appears, being overtaken by consensus on the nature of the mediation process itself.
After 27 years of almost continuous civil war, Angolans have had their share of suffering. Many have been displaced during this long lasting ordeal. After the signing of the April 2002 ceasefire between UNITA and the government forces, thousands are returning home to face new challenges. In the course of armed struggles, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are particularly vulnerable to numerous war-related conflicts. In post-war situations, other types of conflict add on to existing ones and require different forms of intervention. This report attempts to examine various strategies used by a Luanda-based international conflict management organization, the Centre for Common Ground (CCG), that works with Angolan IDPs in the field of conflict resolution. Particular attention is given to the peacemaking and peacebuilding work conducted, in collaboration with IDPs, by CCG.
A collection of eyewitness accounts by Cambodian survivors of Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Each witness was a child at the time of Cambodia's holocaust, and each tells of families torn apart, struggles to survive, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
A major work from a seminal figure in the field of conflict resolution, "Building Peace" is John Paul Lederach's definitive statement on peacebuilding. Marrying wisdom, insight, and passion, Lederach explains why we need to move beyond "traditional" diplomacy, which often emphasizes top-level leaders and short-term objectives, toward a holistic approach that stresses the multiplicity of peacemakers, long-term perspectives, and the need to create an infrastructure that empowers resources within a society and maximizes contributions from outside.Sophisticated yet pragmatic, the volume explores the dynamics of contemporary conflict and presents an integrated framework for peacebuilding in which structure, process, resources, training, and evaluation are coordinated in an attempt to transform the conflict and effect reconciliation."Building Peace" is a substantive reworking and expansion of a work developed for the United Nations University in 1994. In addition, this volume includes a chapter by practitioner John Prendergast that applies Lederach's conceptual framework to ongoing conflicts in the Horn of Africa.
After 27 years of almost continuous civil war, Angolans have had their share of suffering. Many have been displaced during this long lasting ordeal. After the signing of the April 2002 ceasefire between UNITA and the government forces, thousands are returning home to face new challenges. In the course of armed struggles, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are particularly vulnerable to numerous war-related conflicts. In post-war situations, other types of conflict add on to existing ones and require different forms of intervention. This report attempts to examine various strategies used by a Luanda-based international conflict management organization, the Centre for Common Ground (CCG), that works with Angolan IDPs in the field of conflict resolution. Particular attention is given to the peacemaking and peacebuilding work conducted, in collaboration with IDPs, by CCG.
When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution Center for Social Development. The Khmer Rouge and National Reconciliation: Opinions from the Cambodians
  • Elizabeth Principal References Becker
Principal References Becker, Elizabeth. When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution. New York: PublicAffairs, 1998. Center for Social Development. The Khmer Rouge and National Reconciliation: Opinions from the Cambodians. Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 2002.