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Documentary Co-Produced by Handa Center Screens in Cambodia

David Cohen speaking in front of a slide that reads "Breaking the Silence" with pictures of Cambodian women
Apr 28 2017

Posted In:

Events, Rule of Law and Accountability, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

On Monday 24 April 2017 approximately 70 people gathered at the Kravan Hotel in Phnom Penh to watch the first Cambodian screening of Breaking the Silence, a documentary exploring crimes of sexual violence during the Khmer Rouge regime and their prosecution at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Guests included representatives from the Cambodian Ministry of Women’s Affairs, foreign embassies, lawyers and staff from the ECCC, international and local civil society organizations, teachers and students.

Breaking the Silence was produced by Khmer Mekong Films (KMF) in collaboration with the WSD Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice, and with generous support from the British Embassy in Phnom Penh and the East-West Center. The film is part of the British Government’s Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) and was introduced by Ambassador Bill Longhurst.

After decades of silence, growing numbers of Khmer Rouge survivors in Cambodia are now challenging the stigma around sexual violence. They are speaking out about their experiences of forced marriage, rape and sexual abuse suffered under the regime. In courtrooms and classrooms, from civil society forums to family tables, survivors are revealing hidden dimensions to their suffering that continue to impact Cambodian society nearly 40 years after the Khmer Rouge collapsed.

Breaking the Silence contrasts interviews with experts and survivors with courtroom footage from Case 002 at the ECCC to explore the multiple dimensions of sexual and gender-based violence, including forced marriage, committed against both men and women during the Khmer Rouge regime, also known as Democratic Kampuchea.

Following the 50-minute film, guests were invited to ask questions of British Ambassador Longhurst, Handa Center Director Prof. David Cohen, KMF Film Producer Olivier Van Bockstael and Trauma Specialist and Program Coordinator at Kdei Karuna Yim Sotheary. The discussion after the film was animated. Many expressed their support of the film and spoke of the need to ‘break the silence’ around crimes of sexual violence in Cambodia’s past and present. Questions were also asked about plans to share the film more widely inside and outside Cambodia. One guest said the film had inspired her to have a conversation with her parents about their experience during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Further screenings of Breaking the Silence are envisioned for the near future both inside and outside of Cambodia. More information about the film, including the film’s trailer, is available at: