In August 2014, the Cambodian tribunal found former Khmer Rouge senior leaders Nuon Chea (Pol Pot’s right-hand man aka “Brother Number Two”) and Khieu Samphan (head of state in Pol Pot’s regime) guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life in prison.
In early July 2011, Enemies of the People co-director Rob Lemkin provided the latest news on the film’s reception, investigative journalist Thet Sambath and former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea.
POV: Can you tell us how the film has been received in Cambodia?
Rob Lemkin: This is the story Cambodians have been waiting to hear for more than 30 years. The impact among the few Cambodians who have been able to see it has been electric. However, the government has not given us a license to show the film in Cambodia, because the history is still too sensitive for masses of ordinary Cambodians to see in the cinemas. We plan to reapply for a license later in the year and to distribute there on DVD in 2012.
POV: Audiences in the United States have had opportunities to see the film in theaters. How have they reacted to the film?
Lemkin: Audiences have been very moved and inspired by Sambath’s extraordinary quest and his moral generosity in the face of the Khmer Rouge perpetrators who destroyed his childhood world. Cambodian Americans in particular have been intensely galvanized by the film. Members of the older generation of refugees feel similarly to those audiences in Cambodia — this is the film they’ve been waiting for. For the younger generation, it has provided them with a key into a part of their parents’ story that by and large does not get discussed. It is a key part of their history, of why they are in the United States. The fact that a younger Cambodian has taken it upon himself to deal with the “killing fields” in such a direct and humane way also provides much food for thought about how to take these massive issues forward.
POV: Where is Sambath today?
Lemkin: Sambath still works at the paper and farms. Right now the sugar cane harvest is being collected. He will come to the United States in October to accept the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award in Washington, D.C. The evidentiary part of the Khmer Rouge trial starts in August 2011 and will last for up to two years. Sambath has been asked to appear as a witness. Intriguingly, due to the nature of our investigation, it seems he may be called by both prosecution and defense.
POV: What can we expect next for “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and the Cambodia tribunal?
Lemkin: Nuon Chea’s trial for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide began on June 27, 2011. He is on trial with three other former members of the central committee of the Khmer Rouge. [The trial] is expected to last two to three years. He does not expect to leave prison. For more information on his last evening with his family, please see the Enemies of the People filmmaker blog.
Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath are continuing to provide updates on Nuon Chea’s trial, as well as previously unseen photos and video clips from Enemies of the People on the Enemies of the People official blog.