Arts and Ideas

Beneath The Killing Fields: In Pursuit of the Truth

Screening of Thet Sambath's ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE and Panel Discussion


During the Khmer Rouge period nearly two million people were massacred; however, even with the Tribunal coming to an end, the Killing Fields of Cambodia have largely remained a mystery. Journalist Thet Sambath, who lost his father, mother, and brother in the conflict, spent ten years gaining the trust of men and women who participated in the mass killings, conducting interviews with those at the bottom in the chain of command and reaching, in his pursuit of answers, all the way up to the notorious Brother Number Two and chief ideologue, Nuon Chea. In his decade-long process of unearthing the facts behind the genocide, Thet, gracious and unassuming, worked to get below the apparently impenetrable surfaces of ignorance and denial. Enemies of the People, written directed, filmed, and produced by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, seeks answers and exposes testimony, including graphic demonstrations of heinous acts, never before seen or heard. Winner of the Sundance Special Jury Prize, World Documentary; Full Frame Film Festival, Grand Jury Award; Hong Kong Film Festival, Outstanding Documentary; British Independent Film Award, Best Documentary; Jerusalem Film Festival, “In Spirit for Freedom Award”; Ojai Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature; and Emmy for Outstanding Investigative Journalism (Long Form).

Screening to be followed by a panel discussion with

Thet Sambath
2013-14 Harvard Scholars at Risk Fellow

Christopher Decherd
Voice of America Khmer Service Chief

Gregory H. Stanton
Founder and President of Genocide Watch
Founder and Director of the Cambodian Genocide Project

moderated by

Homi Bhabha
Director of the Mahindra Humanities Center

Panelist Bios

Thet Sambath is a renowned journalist with the Phnom Penh Post; he has also reported for Cambodia Today and Cambodia Times and has worked for the American Refugee Committee as a paramedic on the Thai-Cambodia border, as police interpreter for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), and as a human rights investigator for the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO). Since 1994 he worked as producer, translator, and camera operator for international broadcasting organizations including the BBC, WGBH’s Frontline, NHK and NBC; and in 2002, he traveled to the United States on a Jefferson Scholarship. Thet Sambath’s 2009 documentary Enemies of the People has been called “arguably the most important film about the Khmer Rouge.” Shortlisted for an Oscar and awarded Sundance’s Special Jury Prize, Mr. Thet’s film emerged from ten years of interviews with former Khmer Rouge officials, including Nuon Chea, the second-in-command. This patience led to the unprecedented solicitation of filmed confessions, which were also used as evidence in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. Sambath’s film and subsequent book, Behind the Killing Fields, co-authored with Gina Chon, have catalyzed dialogue between survivors and perpetrators of the Killing Fields and raised awareness about the history of the Khmer Rouge. Thet Sambath’s continuing work on a sequel, which seeks to expose links between present-day politicians and the former Khmer Rouge, has triggered a backlash from the Cambodian government,. This project, Suspicious Minds, draws further attention to the links between Cambodian history and present-day politics through articles and interviews. Prior to coming to Harvard through the Harvard Scholars at Risk Program, Thet Sambath was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, DC. At Harvard he is hosted by the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, with a visiting-scholar appointment to the Film Study Center and with additional support from the Neiman Foundation for Journalism and Mahindra Humanities Center.

Christopher Decherd is chief of Voice of America’s Khmer Service. His team of 20 Cambodian journalists in Washington DC and Cambodia produce two live international news radio broadcasts daily, an hour of TV-video news-programming weekly, and robust online/mobile digital-media content in Khmer and in English for two VOA websites, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. VOA Khmer is one of 45 language news-services at VOA, the largest U.S. international broadcaster and funded by Congress. Mr. Decherd came to VOA in 2004 with a vision to improve and expand news coverage to everyday Cambodians, many of whom still live in poverty under an authoritarian government, with little to no access to outside media. He has expanded VOA Khmer’s coverage from radio into the web, television and social media. He has worked hard to train Cambodians in the craft of watchdog journalism, both in Washington and Phnom Penh. Before joining VOA Khmer, Decherd was the Associated Press correspondent in Cambodia and editor-in-chief of The Cambodia Daily. At the Daily, he led a news operation of 25 Cambodians and 15 international journalists to produce a daily newspaper in English with a substantive Khmer-language section. As a reporter, he covered the final years of Khmer Rouge resistance fighting, gradual mass defections to the central government, the movement’s collapse and creation of the UN-assisted Khmer Rouge Tribunal. He lived and worked in Phnom Penh for 10 years. He worked as a reporter for six years at The Athens Banner-Herald/Daily News in Athens, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism in 1990. He’s a native of New York City and grew up in Atlanta.

Gregory H. Stanton is Research Professor in Genocide Studies and Prevention at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Stanton is the founder (1999) and president of Genocide Watch (, the founder (1981) and director of the Cambodian Genocide Project, and is the founder (1999) and Chair of the International Alliance to End Genocide. He was the President (2007 - 2009) of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS.) Dr. Stanton served in the State Department (1992-1999), where he drafted the United Nations Security Council resolutions that created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 1994, Stanton won the American Foreign Service Association's prestigious W. Averell Harriman award for "extraordinary contributions to the practice of diplomacy exemplifying intellectual courage," based on his dissent from U.S. policy on the Rwandan genocide. He wrote the State Department options paper on ways to bring the Khmer Rouge to justice in Cambodia, and drafted the rules of procedure for that tribunal. He was a law professor at Washington and Lee University; the James Farmer Professor in Human Rights at the University of Mary Washington; and a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology (Chicago); J.D. in Law (Yale); and M.T.S. (Harvard Divinity School.)

Free and open to the public. Seating is limited.

Cosponsored by the Mahindra Humanities Center, Harvard Scholars At Risk, The Film Study Center at Harvard, and the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University.

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