Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Bringing Justice to Khmer Rouge Victims
I first visited Phnom Penh when I was doing a travel feature story for SilkWinds - SilkAir's inflight magazine. I was sent there with a photographer to capture the pulse of Cambodia's capital city and to write a destination story.
But after four days there, the story I felt compelled to tell was not about Phnom Penh's tourist attractions, but a sombre account of how this fragile, battered & grieving city is slowly rising to her feet and recovering from her horrific past under the Khmer Rouge regime. I entitled my article: The Pulse of Post-War Phnom Penh.
To this day, I'm surprised SilkWinds published my story, wholesale.
What really happened under the Pol Pot regime? As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And so, I post this YouTube link as a brief "visual" history lesson for you, and to explain in part why the Khmer Rouge Tribunal - which is currently putting war criminals on trial - is so important to the Cambodian people & the international community.
Several months ago, I learnt that a Singaporean lawyer Mahdev Mohan, who was lecturing at the Singapore Management University, had been appointed an international civil party lawyer by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, representing victims of the Khmer Rouge. I decided then that I wanted him on our show, so I tracked him down!
BUT at the time, Mahdev had just left for Stanford Law School in California to pursue his PhD. Through email exchanges, he told me that it was his wife Vinita Ramani Mohan who first inspired him through her work as an Asia Fellow back in 2007. The couple had lived 6 months in Cambodia, where she was exploring the use of the arts to help victims deal with trauma and jump-start the process of healing. What a powerful couple!
I wanted both of them in TLR and I was prepared to wait. Vinita told me they'd be back in June, so I kept in touch with her via Facebook. About 2 weeks back, Vinita emailed me to say they're coming home, and so this interview (months in the making!) is finally brought to you...
Mahdev and Vinita are founders of a Singapore-based NGO called Access to Justice Asia LLP, where he's the Director & Lead Counsel, and she Head of the Arts & Justice Programme.
Using their unique gifts, they are doing what they can to make a long-term, sustainable difference - bringing justice to the 2 million Cambodians who perished during the Khmer Rouge regime, and closure to those they've left behind. And they welcome YOU to join them, if you have a gift you'd like to share. You can email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come early 2010, the couple will again uproot and live 6 months in Cambodia. That's when Mahdev's legal duty on the Tribunal begins. At this juncture, we wish them all the best! And if you're keen to follow the proceedings of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, click here.