Documentation Center


History of Cambodia/ Poverty/ Land Grabs/Slavery/Justice, Media, Human Rights/ Reconciliation with Vietnam/My Life/ My Latest Exile/ Cambodia in Films

Many of these resources are available free online by following the links.

 

History of Cambodia

The origins of the ruling CPP in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the form of the Kampuchean People’s Revolutionary Party, and the role played by the Vietnamese Communists is explained in How Pol Pot Came to Power by Ben Kiernan (Yale University Press, 1985, p8, p74, p83) and The Tragedy of Cambodian History by David Chandler (Yale University Press, 1991, p50).  The continuity of governance between the Khmer Rouge and subsequent regimes is explained by Evan R. Gottesman in Cambodia After the Khmer Rouge: Inside the Politics of Nation Building (Yale University Press, 2004). The atrocities committed during the construction of the K5 wall between Cambodia and Thailand in the late 1980s are detailed by Esmeralda Luciolli in Le Mur de Bambou Le Cambodge après Pol Pot (Medecins sans Frontières, 1988) and by Christelle Thibault in L’Archipel des camps: L’exemple cambodgien,  Presses Universitaires de France, 2008).

Hun Sen’s role in the Khmer Rouge is explained by Human Rights Watch in the report 30 Years of Hun Sen published in 2015.

Poverty

The failure of Cambodia to move away from poverty nearly four decades after the end of the Khmer Rouge is explained by Harold R. Kerbo in The Persistence of Cambodian Poverty From the Killing Fields to Today (Macfarland & Co., 2011). Kerbo started his book by stating that he could not name his sources in Cambodia out of fear for their safety. (p3) The role of foreign aid in the failure is examined by Sophal Ear in Aid Dependence in Cambodia How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy (Columbia University Press 2012). The twin themes of corruption and land grabbing were powerfully illuminated in 2012 by Joel Brinkley in Cambodia’s Curse The Modern History of a Troubled Land. The corruption of the current regime and the way that it strips the country’s assets for private gain has been well documented over the years by Global Witness in Cambodia’s Family Trees (2007), Shifting Sands (2010) and Hostile Takeover (2016). Global Witness also provides a publicly accessible online database of Cambodian corporate ownership.

Land Grabs

Perhaps the most famous of Cambodia’s many land grabs is that at Boeung Kak. Witness testimonies as to its impact can be found online at A Home No More, Stories From Boeung Kak Lake.  See also The Boeung Kak Development Project: for Whom and for What? by Suyheang Kry (2014). A study on the overall impact of land grabbing in Phnom Penh was published in 2016 by Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, an urban NGO in Cambodia: Promises Kept: A Study of the Development of 77 Eviction Sites in Phnom Penh. Oxfam in 2016 detailed the impact of land grabs on indigenous peoples such as the Jarai in Defending Land and Life in Cambodia. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, or Licadho, exposed the delusion that land grabs find justification in development in 2009: Land Grabbing & Poverty in Cambodia: The Myth of Development. Licadho charted the failure of  the government’s Social Land Concession policy in the 2015 report On Stony Ground: A Look into Social Land Concessions. More valuable insight is available in Large Scale Land-Grabbing in Cambodia (Ratana Pen, Phalla Chea, 2015).

The ongoing scale of illegal deforestation in Cambodia and its devastating impact was explained by Forest Trends in 2015 Conversion Timber, Forest Monitoring, and Land-Use Governance in Cambodia. Vietnam's role was made clear in 2013 in Rubber Barons (Global Witness) and in 2017 by the Environmental Investigation Agency in Repeat Offender Vietnam’s Persistent Trade in Illegal Timber.

Slavery

Child slavery in Cambodia, notably in brick-making, was documented in 2016 by Licadho in Built on Slavery: Debt Bondage and Child Labour in Cambodia’s Brick Factories. The regional problem of slavery in fishing into which many emigrating Cambodians find themselves trapped was explained in 2016 by Transient Workers Count Too in Diluted Justice:  Protection and Redress for Trafficked Fishermen in Asia. Cambodians seeking work through a legal recruitment agency have been trafficked to work as far away as South Africa, as shown in 2014 by the International Organization for Migration: In African waters. The Trafficking of Cambodian Fishers in South Africa.

The disregard for the most basic labor rights in Cambodia's garment industry was uncovered in Shop 'til they drop Fainting and Malnutrition in Garment Workers in Cambodia (Labour Behind the Label and the Community Legal Education Centre (2013).  The problem of mass fainting in Cambodian garment factories was confirmed in 2017 by Danish investigative group Danwatch and the British newspaper The Observer. See also Human Rights Watch's 2015 report "Work Faster or Get Out".

Slavery can also take the form of being tied to unpayable debt. The extent of microfinance indebtness qmong Cambodians was analyzed in 2016 by the Mimosa Project, which found Cambodia unique in the speed at which microfinance loan balances increased 2004-2014.

Justice, Media, Human Rights

The failings of the trial of the supposed killer of Dr. Kem Ley are laid bare by Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists and Amnesty International in Cambodia: Significant Questions Remain After Guilty Verdict in Kem Ley Trial. The overall corruption of the justice system is set out by Amnesty International in Cambodia: Courts of Injustice: Suppressing Activism Through the Criminal Justice System in Cambodia (2017). Please visit the http://kemleyresearcher.com/ website on his life and death.

For material on the repression of media in Cambodia, see Repression of Expression: The state of free speech in Cambodia (Cambodian Center for Human Rights 2013). The deteriorating human rights situation has been documented by United Nations Special Rapporteur Dr. Rhona Smith. The dangers to democracy posed by the 2017 amendments to the law on political parties are analysed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia in A Human Rights Analysis of the Amended Law on Political Parties. I denounced the drift to dictatorship of which this is part in an Op-Ed in the Phnom Penh Post.

Women are often the biggest victims of land rights abuses, and this was shown by the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights in Cambodia's Women in Land Conflict (2016). They also suffer the most at the hands of the country's courts. Impunity for rape in Cambodia’s justice system is discussed in an audio book Break the Silence to End Impunity for Rape in the Cambodian Justice System by Licadho (2016).

Reconciliation with Vietnam and Thailand

Few of the criticisms made against me are as inaccurate as the notion that I am anti-Vietnamese. Reconciliation is the cornerstone of my politics. I have always believed in the historic importance of the Franco-German reconciliation after World War Two and the success of the European Union. Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand can and must achieve a similar reconciliation, as I argued in The Nation in 2014 and at  Initiatives et Changement in 2016. This work of this organization, which was historically known as Moral Rearmament and which helped to bring ordinary French and Germans together in the years after 1945, has always inspired me. 

The notion that referring to Vietnamese as yuon is racist has been debunked numerous times, for example by Kenneth T. So and Sophal Ear in 2009 and by several writers in the Cambodia Perspective Review in 2013. I wrote on the issue in Phnom Penh Post in March 2014.

Reconciliation doesn't mean remaining silent on human rights issues in Vietnam, such as the plight of Vietnam’s Montagnards, which was documented in 2015 by Human Rights Watch. Those who manage to escape to Cambodia should be helped by the government, rather than sent back to face certain persecution, which is usually the case.

My Life

My early political positions are described in my online Khmer language book Light of Justice published online in 2001 despite a government ban.

My life as a politician is explained in more detail in my two autobiographies: 

Des Racines dans la pierre  Mon Combat pour la renaissance du Cambodge (Calmann-Lévy, France, 2008).

We Didn't Start the Fire My Struggle for Democracy in Cambodia   (Silkworm Books, Thailand, 2013). Opening excerpt here.

My Latest Exile

Please find here my statement of December 1, 2015 on my latest exile and the text of the ruling by France's Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, in April 2011 finding in my favour in relation to allegations that I made against Cambodia's then foreign minister Hor Namhong. I was pardoned for defamation in Cambodia in 2013. It was the reactivation in Cambodia of my conviction for defamation in this case that was used as the pretext for my current exile. But an independent, neutral judiciary, that of France, found as far back as 2011 that I was not guilty of defamation.

Cambodia in Films

A series of films has portrayed the struggle of ordinary Cambodians to achieve democratic self-termination. The attempt by Boeung Kak residents to save their homes is documented in Even a Bird Needs a Nest (Christine Chansou, Vincent Tringtignant-Corneau, 2012) and  A Cambodian Spring  (Chris Kelly, 2017).

Who Killed Chea Vichea? (Bradley Cox, 2010) investigates the 2004 killing of a Cambodian trade union leader.

Angkor Awakens (Robert H. Lieberman, 2016) explores Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge to its current tipping point.

Cambodia’s Deadly Politics  (Al Jazeera 2017) examines the killing of Dr. Kem Ley in 2016.