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Transitional Justice and Memory in Cambodia: Beyond the Khmer Rouge
Published by Routledge
Questions about memory have been integral to the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Punishing former Khmer Rouge leaders offers a denunciation of Cambodia's past experiences of political violence in the name of renewing a national memory. Yet this represents an incomplete or inaccurate memory of the Khmer Rouge, and an inability to move beyond it. In this sense, memory is invoked as both an object for intervention and correction, and a site of social renewal, but only on the terms and story authored by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Moreover, the detail of memory (re)making at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal is contested by victim and perpetrator: exchanges of accusation, testimony, connivance, and denial involve memory in complex ways. This book unpicks the way memory is reconstructed through imagination of a national memory, the legal reframing of memories as crimes, and personal bids to locate memories within collective biographies. Drawing on documentary sources, legal transcripts, interviews and participant observation data, the book situates the work of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal within a wider context of social and cultural memory politics, examining conflicts of memory that have emerged between the varied accounts and uses of the past that exist in Cambodia now. This book shows that the governing logic of transitional justice interventions - that societies are unable to 'deal with' memories of atrocity and violence without some form of transitional justice mechanism - fails to grasp the complexity of memory and remembering in post-atrocity contexts, or the agency of the subjects to which such mechanisms are addressed.
Peter Manning is Fellow at the Centre for Human Rights at The London School of Economics, UK.
Reviewer: Chandar Sundaram