Okimoto Conference Room, Encina Hall, Third Floor, East Wing,
Nearly a quarter-century has elapsed since the Khmer Rouge held power in Cambodia (1975-78). Yet Cambodians still are shadowed by that catastrophic experience, and by conflicting legacies from other parts of their country's past. Cambodians continue to struggle to come to terms with what the Pol Pot era meant, and with what has happened to them since. After centuries of relative isolation, they must also contend with changes in Cambodia's identity in what seems to be an ever faster moving world. Views of Cambodia's history and destiny, formed in colonial and Cold War times, no longer seem to fit. But new interpretations have not yet taken hold.
Epitomizing this confusion is the issue of bringing surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to justice. Over the last decade or so, efforts toward this end have inched forward and bogged down, beset by clashing political priorities and notions of justice and culpability. Cambodians ask themselves: Should we insist on remembering, or allow forgetting? Why? And with what implications for the future?
David Chandler is the leading English-language historian of Cambodia. He holds degrees from Harvard College, Yale University, and the University of Michigan. From l972 to l997 he taught Southeast Asian history at Monash University in Australia. Since then he has held appointments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Oregon, and Cornell University. His books include A History of Cambodia (3rd ed., 2000), Brother Number One: A Political Biography of Pol Pot (2nd ed., 1999), and Voices from S 21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison (l999). His many other writings include coauthorship of the classic history text, In Search of Southeast Asia (1971), the 3rd revised edition of which should appear next year.