Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Psychosocial Support Needed for KR Tribunal

By Dr Sotheara Chhim,
Managing Director,Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia,Phnom Penh
Letter to the Editor

The Cambodia Daily
Tuesday, April 11, 2006

With the tribunal for ex-Khmer Rouge leaders likely to start in the near future, there has been much attention from NGOs and donors in providing legal and human right services, but there has been very little attention paid to mental health and psychosocial support.

While acknowledging that mental health and psychosocial support during the Khmer Rouge tribunal is crucial, neither the UN nor the Cambodian government has any budget to support this activity.

Therefore, this activity will depend on contributions from other donors.

The tribunal may bring social justice and may promote social healing in Cambodia, but as a mental health professional, I am not sure if it can promote psychological healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. A small survey done by Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Cambodia, in a joint project with the Documentation Center of Cambodia, found that after receiving psychosocial intervention, victims become more able to forgive and less likely to seek revenge against perpetrators.

In that sense, I think that mental health and psychosocial support during the Khmer Rouge tribunal are crucial for those who will testify in court and are involved in the tribunal’s work. Such activates are provided in other international tribunals. Moving forward with a tribunal without having these types of services available is dangerous; I strongly urge the donor community to consider this need and help ensure that the tribunal is truly the healing process it is meant to be.

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