Chhim Sotheara

Dr. Chhim, 41, a psychologist and director of Cambodia TPO, was called to testify as an expert on the psychological impact of the Khmer Rouge regime.

He detailed the consequences regarding the mental and physical condition of family members of direct victims of S-21 and the nature of the trauma resulting from the knowledge of a relative's death. In addition to underlining the specificity of familial relationships within Cambodian culture, Dr. Chhim told the Trial Chamber that 40% of Cambodians over 18 years old have experienced or encountered symptoms of post-traumatic stress. He explained the possibility of trauma transmission to the next generation (secondary trauma), and detailed factors amplifying trauma such as poverty, daily interactions with perpetrators, or the absence of adequate mental health services. Dr. Chhim pointed out important factors for the healing of victims such as the disclosure of truth, justice, and the ability to forgive. He argued that the psychological healing of victims depends on the honesty and sincerity of the accused and the former leaders of Democratic Kampuchea.

He further analysed the role of the ECCC in relieving victimsí psychological suffering, arguing that the tribunal can help deliver symbolic justice and reveal the truth. Although the risk of re-experiencing traumatic events is increased by the tribunal, if adequate help is provided, the tribunal can help victims to face their trauma. 

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Transcript from testimony

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