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The Justice FacadeTrials of Transition in Cambodia$
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Alexander Hinton

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198820949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198820949.001.0001

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Disposition (Youk Chhang, Documenter and Survivor)

Disposition (Youk Chhang, Documenter and Survivor)

(p.218) 9 Disposition (Youk Chhang, Documenter and Survivor)
The Justice Facade

Alexander Laban Hinton

Oxford University Press

Beginning with an interview with Youk Chhang, the head of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the chapter explores his path to the non-governmental organization and the projects it undertook, including Khmer Rouge Tribunal outreach. The second half of the chapter looks at how the play “Breaking the Silence” emerged from these efforts. A collaboration from the start, the play on the surface reflects the aspirations of the transitional justice imaginary, as illustrated by the title. Chhang, however, pointed out that this title made little sense in Khmer and therefore that his staff simply referred to it as “Pol Pot Stories.” Indeed, Chhang carefully translated the text so that it would make sense in rural Cambodian vernaculars. He noted that transitional justice imaginary ideas of “reconciliation” and “healing” were problematic and did not accord with the complicated on the ground understandings of Cambodian villagers. Nevertheless, the tribunal made a positive impact not just by holding former Khmer Rouge leaders accountable, but by potentially catalyzing combustive acts of imagination as Cambodians directly or indirectly engaged with the court.

Keywords:   Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang, Democratic Kampuchea, non-governmental organizations and civil society, Cambodia, vernacularization, reconciliation, healing, “Breaking the Silence” play (Prins the director)

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