Researcher, Lawyer Spar Over Genocide

A prominent academic sparred with a defense lawyer at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday over whether the regime committed genocide, with the scholar claiming there was a “clear parallel” between the communists’ treatment of the Vietnamese and the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews.

Alex Hinton, an American anthropologist and genocide researcher who has extensively studied the Khmer Rouge, appeared at the court for a third day to face questions from Victor Koppe, a lawyer for Nuon Chea, the regime’s second-in-command, over whether killings of ethnic Vietnamese in Democratic Kampuchea constituted genocide.

According to the legal definition of genocide, killings must be enacted against a racial, ethnic, national or religious group with the intent of wiping that group out. The extermination of political groups does not fall under the term’s umbrella.

Mr. Koppe on Wednesday set about comparing the alleged genocide of the Vietnamese by the Khmer Rouge to other genocides in the 20th century, starting with the Holocaust, in which the Nazis exterminated about 6 million Jews.

“Is it true, that there is a huge difference between, on the one hand, how Nazi Germany viewed Jews and how they were treated, as opposed to how DK saw the Vietnamese and how DK ultimately treated its Vietnamese citizens?” Mr. Koppe asked.

Mr. Hinton responded by pointing out similarities between Democratic Kampuchea and Nazi Germany, including socioeconomic upheaval, a “manufacturing difference” between groups in society, and the disempowerment of a target group before its gradual elimination.

“That process itself is a direct parallel…that occurs in a number of genocides. It’s one that occurs during the DK regime, it’s one that occurred during the Holocaust,” Mr. Hinton said.

Asked whether there were also similarities to the propaganda of Nazi Germany and Rwandan radio broadcasts that labeled members of the Tutsi minority “cockroaches” prior to the 1994 genocide there, the expert witness pointed to evidence of dehumanizing metaphors cited in “Pol Pot’s Little Red Book: The Sayings of Angkar,” by French historian Henri Locard.

“There’s all sorts of dehumanizing metaphors that are in that book. You can refer to numerous DK radio broadcasts, the same thing exists there. So yes, I think you can draw a direct parallel again and again,” Mr. Hinton said.

“With this process of manufacturing difference I’ve referred to, the parallels in that regard between the Holocaust and the Cambodian genocide are very clear and very direct, as they are with other ideological genocides,” he continued.

As the questioning neared its close and Mr. Koppe began grilling the scholar on whether he could provide documents proving the regime’s genocidal intent, the atmosphere between the two became tense.

“Give me one example of a CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea] document or DK document in which it actually, literally says ‘new people’ should be persecuted or executed, or Vietnamese citizens should be killed, should be exterminated. Where is the document where it explicitly says that?” Mr. Koppe asked, using the Khmer Rouge term for people who lived in cities before the regime took over.

“Thank you, Mr. Co-Defense Lawyer, I didn’t realize that I was supposed to come prepared with a set of documentation to introduce into the court on my own,” Mr. Hinton retorted.

“There isn’t any,” Mr. Koppe snapped.

Mr. Hinton then told the lawyer he was wrong, and that there was a wealth of literature showing the “rhetoric of hate” against Vietnamese.

“A lot of words, Mr. President, but no answer,” Mr. Koppe said, turning to Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn before sitting down.

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