The Collapse of Cambodian Democracy and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

In recent weeks, the Cambodian government of prime minister Hun Sen has arrested the head of the country's main opposition party, charged him with treason, and moved to dissolve the party itself, which holds 55 seats in Cambodia's 123-seat National Assembly.

The moves against Kem Sokha's Cambodia National Rescue Party effectively turn Cambodia into a one party state under Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge guerilla who has dominated Cambodian politics for more than three decades.

The international community now faces a dilemma over its continued support for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), the tribunal set up with United Nations support to try former senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians from 1975 to 1979. Important and politically sensitive cases at the ECCC are not yet complete, and many victims await the opportunity to tell their stories. Yet, the Cambodian government already has a history of political interference in the court's proceedings. 

How much longer should the international community collaborate with an increasingly authoritarian government in the interests of justice for historical crimes?

Join Putsata Reang, David Tolbert, and Heather Ryan in a discussion covering the latest developments at the ECCC, possibilities for keeping the remaining cases on track, and prospects for doing so in a deteriorating political environment.


  • Putsata Reang is an author and journalist who has followed the work of the ECCC and broader political developments in Cambodia.
  • David Tolbert is president of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and previously served as special expert to the UN secretary general on the ECCC.
  • Heather Ryan has monitored developments at the ECCC for the Open Society Justice Initiative for several years, and co-authored the 2016 Justice Initiative report Performance and Perception: The Impact of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
  • The event will be moderated by James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Date: October 24, 2017
Time: 6:007:30 p.m.
James A. Goldston, Putsata Reang, Heather Ryan, and David Tolbert