Mercy Sister says justice key to ensuring peace in Cambodia

Justice key to peace in Cambodia

Justice is the key to ensuring lasting peace in Cambodia according to a Catholic nun discussing the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders.

“In order to promote reconciliation, peace and justice, we had to be on both sides of the border and make friends with Cambodians from all warring factions,” said Denise Coghlan, a member of the Sisters of Mercy congregation, in an interview with FIDES..

The Australian nun moved to the Cambodia-Thailand border in 1988 and has been active in Cambodia since 1990. Her congregation has been ministering in the Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam area since 1987.

The Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in April 1975 and was overthrown in January 1979. It is estimated that up to three million people died in less than the four years of the brutal regime.

Sister Coghlan was the first foreign sister in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge reign of terror ended. She works with the Jesuit Refugee Service and its Cambodian team Metta Karuna (mercy and loving kindness).

In 1997 when the International Campaign to Ban Landmines was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Sister Coghlan was among the 11-person delegation in attendance to receive the award.

Part of the national healing and reconciliation process, to which so many religious communities and civil society associations have dedicated themselves, is the path of justice. This is underway through the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders.

The trial is being conducted by an Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. It was established in 2003 and made up of local judges and United Nations legal experts.

After 19 years and just two successful convictions, the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia is nearing its end. Unfortunately, most architects of the genocide in the Southeast Asian nation are already dead or too infirm to stand trial.

From day one, the ECCC has faced increasing pressure from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), as the country’s all-powerful prime minister Hun Sen himself was a former Khmer Rouge member.

When UN lawyers tried to broaden the scope of the trial, Cambodian judges pushed back. The political interference brought criticism from international human rights agencies. Human Rights Watch described the two convictions in 2014 as “too little, too late.” It termed the court as a “fundamentally flawed” failure.

Initially, Hun Sen welcomed the court, hoping to get an endorsement from the international community that refused to support his Vietnam-backed government. Later he backtracked, fearing that the threat of mass trials would undermine the country’s fragile peace.

The court is reportedly due to complete its work later in 2022.


La Croix International

Agenzia Fides

Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , ,