Cambodia has gone trough decades of genocide and civil war. During the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 million Cambodians ‘disappeared’ under the reign of Pol Pot. In order to convict the leaders of this regime, the Cambodian tribunal was established. Last week the first conviction has took place. On July 26, Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a. Duch (chief of the notorious prison Tuol Sleng) has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Although the first democratic elections were held in 1993, it is only since 1999 that the country has enjoyed a degree of political stability and the complex process of political, economic and social rebuilding has started. Despite the political and economic improvements the health status of the Cambodian population is still among the poorest in the world. Health reforms, with respect to the basic elements of a potentially effective public health system, are partially in place in Cambodia, but there is still a mismatch between the needs of the population and the ability of the health services to meet them.
HealthNet TPO is working on the establishment of basic psychiatric services and psychosocial support in Cambodia since 1994. From this programme the independent NGO ‘TPO Cambodia’ derived, to which HealthNet TPO has still tight relations.
In order to contribute to the coping process during this tribunal, HealthNet TPO director Willem van de Put and documentarist Jan van de Berg issued the film ‘Deacon of Death’ in 2005. It illustrates the power of the Khmer people by telling the story of a young Cambodian woman who is confronted with the man she holds responsible for the death of her family. The DVD is often used in educational projects to show the younger Cambodian generation what the Khmer regime caused en still is causing in their society.
The genocide at the level of local historical events and personal emotions are often not easily discussed. Not only because the effects are underestimated, but also because the population is hardly educated on this violent period in their history. This film aims to create a necessary framework helping the survivors and new generations to better cope with Cambodia’s history.
This year an addition to this film was released with new interviews and reactions of involved persons.
See the website of TPO Cambodia for more information on our projects.