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No Need to Exaggerate, CNN: The Facts Are Bad Enough

amoores Icon Posted by Anne Elizabeth Moore

April 8th, 2008

Considering the recent death of Dith Pran in a New Brunswick hospital of pancreatic cancer, Christine Amanpour’s recent CNN report on the Cambodian genocide is concerning. She quotes two numbers at the end of the piece—14,000 deaths at Tuol Sleng, formerly known as the prison S-21, and 2 million dead under the Khmer Rouge regime’s four-year rule—that are exaggerations of the statistics tallied by DC-Cam, the Documentation Center of Cambodia, the organization devoted to collecting evidence and stories of life and death under the Khmer Rouge. These are closer to 12000 Tuol Sleng victims and 1.7 million deaths under Pol Pot. (Their site appears to be down now, but these are per printed brochures and publications by DC-Cam.)

It may seem nitpicky to hound Amanpour for a slight inflation of numbers in a tragedy that cannot be underestimated, but the death of Dith Pran in many ways symbolized the end of America’s interest in—and compassion for—Cambodia. His story, as portrayed in The Killing Fields, gave him the distinctive honor of being the only Cambodian the US seemed to even know about (besides Angelina Jolie).

This is deeply regrettable, considering the (supportive) role the US played in the lead up to the Khmer Rouge regime. But unsurprising.

Still, when discussions of Cambodia do leak into the US press, it would be advisable to ensure they are factual. The long-awaited Khmer Rouge tribunals—currently ongoing but stalled for a variety of reasons—do not make it into Amanpour’s story, a glaring omission. Nor the reasons for the delay: an extended debate over the relevance of the term genocide when killing took place within the killers’ own racial and ethnic group, a deep governmental ambivalence about prosecuting the leaders of an organization the current administration was involved in themselves—and one supported at times by both the UN and the US, and an unmet request for further funding from the US to continue the trials.

There is no need to exaggerate the death toll. A full accounting of facts will sufficiently horrify.

(Andy sent me the link!)

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