All Shorenstein APARC Multimedia

Cambodia: Past, Present, and Future

  • Joel Brinkley ,
  • Seth Mydans ,
  • John Ciorciari

Two images tend to dominate conceptions of the modern Cambodian experience.  Angkor represents heaven, referring to the magnificent temples that capture Cambodia's past glory and future aspirations.  Angkar represents hell, referring to the merciless Khmer Rouge organization that littered the countryside with corpses in the late 1970s.  In many respects, contemporary Cambodian life can be seen as a difficult journey from Angkar toward Angkor.

This panel will discuss challenges that Cambodians face as they seek to move from a dark modern past to a brighter future.  It will address a number of critical questions.  The panel will begin by putting Cambodia's transition in modern historical context.  How have the country's politics and society evolved since the demise of the Pol Pot regime thirty years ago?  How did the Khmer Rouge tribunal take shape, and why has that forum been the subject of such intense political contestation?  The panel will then shift to an analysis of the present day.  How are Cambodians coming to terms with the country's tragic history on personal and societal levels?  What are their views on the adequacy and effectiveness of the Khmer Rouge tribunal in advancing justice, human rights, and other ends? Lastly, the panel will focus on problems beyond the Khmer Rouge legacy.  What are the principal contemporary barriers to democracy and development under the Hun Sen government?  What are the keys to overcoming those obstacles?

About the Panelists
Joel Brinkley
assumed his post at Stanford in 2006 after a 23-year career with The New York Times, where he was a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent.  He has won a Pulitzer Prize and many other reporting and writing awards.  He writes a nationally syndicated weekly op-ed column on foreign policy and has reported from over 50 foreign countries.  He has a long-standing interest in Cambodia, which is the subject of his latest book.

Seth Mydans (2009 Shorenstein Journalism Award recipient) Since taking up his post as the New York Times Southeast Asian correspondent in 1996 he has covered the fall of Suharto and rise of democracy in Indonesia; the death of Pol Pot, the demise of the Khmer Rouge and the trauma and slow rebirth of Cambodia; repeated attempts at People Power in the Philippines; the idiosyncracies of Singapore and Malaysia; the long-running political crisis in Thailand and the seemingly endless troubles of Myanmar.

John Ciorciari is a National Fellow at the Hoover Institution and was a 2007-08 Shorenstein Fellow at the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.  He is also Senior Legal Advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent institute dedicated to promoting memory and justice with respect to the abuses of the Khmer Rouge regime.