Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
Session A2 2: Asian Experiences
Tuesday, 20/July/2021:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Simarjit Kaur, TARAN Peace building NGO, United Kingdom
Location: Room 2


Digital memory for a lasting peace: the “Khmer rouge history” app

Aude Brejon

Université Panthéon Assas, France

The mens rea of any genocide consists in intending to destroy a determined social group. However, none of the genocide recognized reached their goal to erase the related group. In the aftermath of these crimes, States must deal with a divided population that must be reconciled to enforce a new social pact. Since the Nuremberg trials, such a challenge has gone from being ignored to its full acknowledgement. Among all the measures taken in virtue of this outreach, those related to memory programs are recognised as of the most efficient to maintain a lasting peace. Those have evolved from static and limited reminders of the acts perpetrated, such as statues to more dynamic programs such as retrospective and exhibitions. However, as shown by the policy led by the Italian government in Sicily for the crimes perpetrated by Cosa Nostra, these memory measures tend either to be forgotten or in the latter case, to cease after a certain amount of time. The measure enforced by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia constitutes a turning point in this matter. In the case 002/02, civil parties proposed a judicial reparation project consisting in launching an “App-learning on Khmer Rouge History”. Due to the specificities of the Cambodian territory, that is the lack of communication infrastructures and those of the Cambodian population, about 70% of the total population is under 30 years old, this app constitutes a revolutionary method. It allows the youngest generation to be taught about the khmer rouge history and specifically about the genocide that occurred. The use of app technology allows a permanency in the memory program, independently from a government, which members have been clearly identified as linked with the regime involved in the Cambodian genocide.

Genocide Recognition, Social Repair and Cultural Heritage in Cambodia

Rachel Killean1, Christoph Sperfeldt2

1Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom; 2University of Melbourne

On 16 November 2018, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, delivered its much anticipated second judgment against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, two former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. This judgment features the Court’s first convictions for genocide perpetrated during the regime, finding both defendants guilty of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese population, and Nuon Chea guilty of genocide against the Cham Islamic population. In this paper, we discuss the implications of this judgment for genocide recognition, social repair and minorities’ cultural heritage in Cambodia, drawing on our research with the Cham and ethnic Vietnamese communities. In particular, we highlight the divergences that can exist between adjudicated and socially constructed recognition of genocide, the meaning of genocide recognition in the context of ongoing human rights violations, and the harms that remain without redress in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Identifying and Countering Holocaust Distortion. Lessons for Southeast Asia” – a case study of a digital exhibition

Natalia Sineaeva-Pankowska1,2

139;Never Again' Association, Poland; 2GSSR, Poland

The paper draws upon the project currently implemented by the ‘Never Again’ Association and supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, “Identifying and Countering Holocaust Distortion. Lessons for Southeast Asia” in 2021-2022.

Southeast Asia had its own experiences of World War II as well as other conflicts and instances of genocide, but the awareness of the Holocaust is scarce, which provides fertile ground for distortion. The project covers Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar. It addesses not only the Holocaust, but aims to inspire critical memory discourses in dealing with the past, thus contributing to the culture of human rights and genocide prevention in the region.

One of the project activities is a digital interactive exhibition, tackling the subject of Holocaust distortion and genocide denial as well as hate speech, and addressing specifically Southeast Asian audiences.

How can we present the universal significance of the Holocaust as a point of reference in debates on human rights, using regional and local historical and contemporary contexts to deliver the message? To what extent the experience of past atrocities can be applied to the understanding of contemporary instances of violence, genocide and suffering of victims? How it can be reflected through the digital representation? How can we cultivate empathy among the audiences of the proposed exhibition using digital technologies? How can we build up the humanisation of experiences by using digital resources? The paper addresses the challenges and potential in exploring the issue of Holocaust distortion and genocide denial by digital technologies by analysing the particular exhibition.

Representing Khmer Rouge violence in the digital age

Caroline Bennett

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

In this paper I ask, what is the relationship between the digital circulation of images, and ways of understanding and remembering the Cambodian genocide? And how do these relate to state projects of memory making?

The violence of the Khmer Rouge regime is highly visualised in Cambodia. Memorials exhibit human remains, photographs of those tortured are used in museum displays, and autobiographical and academic texts often feature images of dead bodies or mass graves from the genocide. Pre-covid, hostels in Phnom Penh screened films such as ‘The Killing Fields’ (Joffe 1984) to their residents to help them learn about Cambodia. Historian David Chandler has argued that Cambodian politics has created a ‘phantasmagoric’ Khmer Rouge, bearing only a loose semblance to the reality of the regime. Film, art, and photography play a role in this. All were suppressed under the Khmer Rouge, except when used in its service – photographs to document prisoners, or as proof of execution, for example. Following its fall, these visual artifacts continued to be used as evidence of violence of the regime, supporting both state-centred histories, as well as providing counter-narratives to this. This extends through tourism and political campaigning, to local modes of memory making, and recently, forms of transitional justice. Recently, media emerging from within and outside Cambodia is creating new ways of relating to the regime.

Presenting the initial thoughts of a new research project, which considers global aesthetics and its influence on state, international, and local, understandings of the Khmer Rouge, this paper will consider the relationship of digital and social media to this.