Saturday, September 19, 2009

Theary Seng's Press Conference with Germany's Federal Minister for Economic Development, Berlin, 19 August 2009

Press Conference of 10th Anniversary of Civil Peace Service, Berlin, 19 August 2009
Mrs. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (2nd from left), Germany's Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, listens to Theary Seng's Press Conference
Mrs. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul talking to Theary Seng
Theary Seng speaking with Dr. Jürgen Wilhelm, Director General of German Development Service

The following is a transcript of Ms. Theary Seng's Press Conference:

10th Year Anniversary of Civil Peace Service
St. Elizabeth Church, Berlin. 19 August 2009
Statement of Theary C. SENG, CPS local partner


Good afternoon. I am deeply honored to be here this afternoon with Minister Heidemarie (1) and other peace-builders on the panel in the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Civil Peace Service.

I come from a country when a boy steals a piece of bread, he is sent to jail; when a man kills 2 million of his countrymen, he is invited to Paris for a peace conference.

I come from a country where to be an orphan is to be common; where post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) pervades the population.

I come from Cambodia. Where as a child of 4 years old, the Khmer Rouge killed my father, then 3 years later my mother while we were in prison, along with 2 million other Cambodians.

We, Cambodians, yearn for peace. Peace that is more than just the absence of war. We want peace with the presence of justice. We want peace to subside the internal turmoil and purge the demons from within.

Thirty years on, there is now the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (or, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia) to start us on this journey of ‘peace with justice’ in trying 5 former KR leaders for these heinous crimes against humanity.

KRT is both ‘court of law’ and ‘court of public opinion’

The KRT is both a court of law and a court of public opinion. As a court of law, the KRT is limited. But any court of law has limitations, even here in developed Germany. A court has a very narrow mandate to weigh available evidence to convict or to let go.

In Cambodia, evidence is 30 years old, compromised, lost; witnesses long dead or are fearful to come forward. Additionally, there are charges of corruption, political interference, lack of judicial independence, budgetary constraints, etc.

The Center for Social Development monitors the national courts as well as the KRT for fair trial rights.

However, because the KRT is limited in what it can do as a court of law, we see the values of the KRT in the court of public opinion, and thus use the KRT as a catalyst, as an illustration to jumpstart conversations—long overdue—on issues of history, accountability, responsibility (personal, collective), truth, reconciliation, trauma, healing, confession, forgiveness—all issues larger than the complex legal construct and legalese limited to the understanding of a few.

Civil Peace Service (DED)’s Partnership with Center for Social Development, now with Center for Justice & Reconciliation

How does the Civil Peace Service and Germany fit into all of this? Three years ago, I, as director of the Center for Social Development, approached Mr. Wolfgang Mollers, country representative of the German Development Service, to inquire whether we could work together in peace building in light of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and discussed having a civil peace officer with expertise in psycho-therapy be based with us.

To our joy, Mr. Mollers said ‘Yes’ and since, the partnership with DED and the Civil Peace Service (through first, Matthias WITZEL and now Stefan KIESEL) has brought on unprecedented and deeply expansive achievements in the whole of Cambodian society:
  • 20 public forums and national conferences on “Justice & Reconciliation” in all of Cambodia’s 24 provinces—town hall-like meetings with victims and perpetrators, with KRT judges and prosecutors, donors and other civil society leaders, students representing the younger generation. Many view these public forums as “informal truth and reconciliation commissions”. We want these invited provincial participants in the thousands to be ambassadors to their family and neighbors back in their villages.
  • These public forums were preceded with many small group meetings in each province during ground preparation trips.
  • 15 seminars on how to involve victims as “Civil Party” in the KRT criminal proceeding.
  • 15 tour visits of provincial participants to Phnom Penh sites of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Choeung Ek Killing Fields and the KRT.
  • Emotional Support Team – headed by the Civil Peace Service – accompanies and counsels the participants at each and every event.
  • Emotional Support Team has created Understanding Trauma in Cambodia Handbook – lovingly and creatively put together. Now, the Royal University’s Department of Psychology is using this Handbook as THE textbook in its program. It is the first book of its kind !
  • Now, we are working on a Child Soldier Handbook… we want to give serious meaning to our “reconciliation” work. Who were the KR but children recruited to take up arms and turn against their own family members and neighbors. Now these individuals are adults with children of their own, living with the weight of their dark past of blood and confusion. Stefan KIESEL has experiences working with child soldiers in Sierre Leone.
  • We multiply our impact by broadcasting these public forums and seminars all over the country on our Voice of Justice Radio Program with millions of listeners to make it truly a national dialogue.
  • The most special impact for me is the standardizing of trauma language and conversations in Cambodian society. What was taboo 3 years ago are now talked about with less shame and reluctance. Three years ago, my staff accused me of thinking every Cambodian “crazy” by broaching these topics of trauma. Now, they are counseling others using the Trauma Handbook and posters taken from this Trauma Handbook.
Words cannot adequately capture the importance of the work of the Civil Peace Service in a place like Cambodia… caring individuals with expertise in peace-building passing on their skills by weaving their lives intricately with those of the local partners. Without DED and Civil Peace Service, we would not have achieved the above mentioned happenings.

Having witnessed firsthand the immeasurable contribution of the Civil Peace Service in Cambodia, I hope this work will continue for at least another 10 years, and then another 10, and another 10… until peace with justice, peace in the heart has been achieved in our broken world of suffering.

Thank you, Germany, for your humanity and generosity of spirit and attention.
About Theary C. SENG:
  • Founder & Board President, Center for Justice & Reconciliation
  • Fmr. Executive Director, Center for Social Development www.csdcambodia.orgPublic Forum: Emotional Support” (where you can find Trauma Handbook).
  • Executive Director, Parliamentary Center of Cambodia
  • Author, Daughter of the Killing Fields (London, 2005)
(1) Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. I am the only non-German on the panel, assisted by an excellent private interpreter Alison Clark sitting next to me. In 2001, the Minister had visited and was greatly moved by theTuol Sleng Genocide Museum. For a federal minister, she was greatly informed of tiny Cambodia and its affairs, genocidal history and the KRT. I gave her a copy of my memoir. After the press conference, she invited me to join a semi-confidential meeting with all the 8 heads of the state and non-state institutions of the Civil Peace Service, assisted again by the private interpreter. Marc Eberle, the German filmmaker who is doing a film on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal using my life to tell the larger story had his colleague from ARTE filmed the event. About 15-20 reporters covered the event.


Anonymous said...

Theary Seng ,please tell the world that Communist Sihanouk,communist HoChi Minh and Mao have no Pchhum Ben.

Anonymous said...

You are able to tell the world by your own ability and don't need the help from Mrs. Theary Seng.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Seng,
There are three type of people:
One, wonder what happen.
Two, watch what happen.
And the third type is someone like you, who trying to make it happen.

Thank you for your effort and dedication to help our people and country.


Anonymous said...

Theary Seng's and Mu Sochua's heroism is highly commendable! If only there were more Cambodians like them. They will succeed in their pursuit for justice and peace for the people in Cambodia!

Khmer ordinary said...

The fight for freedom, social justice, and democracy for defenseless Khmer people must go on. It must go on ceaselessly.

This despotic government must be stopped, otherwise Cambodia will become a second Laos soon. We as decent Khmers must stand up strong to challenge to Hun Sen's and his criminal clique's despicable game of turning Cambodia upside down.

If there are no Khmers living overseas strongly express their opinions or objection against Hun Sen and his criminal clique's evil acts, the defenseless Khmer poeple living inside the country must have been more severely maltreated. But, unfortuantely, some Khmer living overseas turn to be Khmer Rouge in disguise as Khmers not Rouge; until they bark so strongly to defend Hun Sen that we can tell they are actually Khmer Rouge, like Krama Man Krohorm Kor, New Phally, and Khmer Austarlia, etc. These Khmer Rouge won't change their absolute Khmer Rougeism, even until they face trial like ah Duch. Ah Duch won't change his doctrine too. If given a second chance, he will boublekill the innocent Khmers, because, to most Khmer Rouge, killing is fun.

Anyway I strongly hope that most Khmer not Rouge living overseas will continue their pursuit for social justice for their beloved defenseless compatriots.

Khmer ordinary said...

Khmer odinary said...

It's not hard to understand what "common sense" is. When sense is common, it is common sense.

When one understands the other's need as one's own, that is one of the common senses.

If one wants to be happy, one realizes that the others must want to be happy too.

When ine has good food to eat, one thinks the others must want to eat good food too.

When one has a nice house to live, one thinks that the others must want to live in a house too.

If one treats the others the same way as one oneself wants to be treated, then one has a common sense. Let me leave space for folks to fill it.

People like Hun Sen, his families, his criminal cronies, New Phally, Krama Man, etc. lack common sense. Their sense is not common to most Khmer people.

9:35 AM

Anonymous said...

Well, we sent Sam Rainsy to do the job, but he did a lousy one. Now we sent Theary Seng and Mu Sochua to do it, let's wait and see the result.

Way to go girls!

Anonymous said...

shut the fuck up Ah C pee pee 9:57pm or Ah Pherk Terk Kon duy Yuon.hahah

Anonymous said...


Terk Kon Duy Yuon is very tasty, have you try it?

Anonymous said...

"I come from a country when a boy steals a piece of bread, he is sent to jail". Really? Not exaggerating? How old is the boy? What is the boy's name? Give me some more info! Please!

Anonymous said...

Thmil Yuon Tep Vong, thmil Yuon Nguon Nhel.ect. more Cpp tmhil come usa.

Anonymous said...

yes, cambodia needs more people like ms. theary seng, ms. mu sochua and so on. these wonderful people used their fame and influence to help make a real difference in cambodia. god bless them both and others like them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Theary for taking human rights abuse in cambodia to international communities, to ensure the implementation of agreement between cambodian govt and donating countries satisfied, for peace and prosperity to majority cambodians.

Neang SA

Common Sense said...

2:01 AM,

It's a figure of speech, an expression, you moron. It's just an example, no need to know if the boy exist. Learn to think logically. OK.

Anonymous said...

Moving from the left to the right... which indicates that she is getting old, tried, mature, etc... What happened to you when you were a CSD

Anonymous said...

You're very good for Cambodia, Ms. Theary.

Anonymous said...

As a foreigner living in Cambodia, I feel so good this morning after reading the message Theary, whom I have known for a long time, is trying to get across. Get up Cambodians and follow Theary. Isn't it a mark of what is happening here to notice so much anonymity?