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The Justice FacadeTrials of Transition in Cambodia$
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Alexander Hinton

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198820949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198820949.001.0001

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Performance (Reach Sambath, Public Affairs, and “Justice Trouble”)

Performance (Reach Sambath, Public Affairs, and “Justice Trouble”)

Chapter:
(p.144) 5 Performance (Reach Sambath, Public Affairs, and “Justice Trouble”)
Source:
The Justice Facade
Author(s):

Alexander Laban Hinton

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198820949.003.0008

Chapter 5 shifts from aesthetics to performativity, even as the two are intertwined. Just as the parties came together at Tuol Sleng in a performance of transitional justice and law, one that seemed to realize the transitional justice imaginary’s aspiration for transformation, so too did the civil parties enter into legal proceedings that had clear performative dimensions, including an ethnodramatic structure that led some to refer to it as “the show.” Indeed, justice itself is a momentary enactment of law, structured by power including legal codes and the force of law, which is plagued by the impossibility of realizing the universal in the particular, a dilemma Derrida has discussed in terms of justice always being something that is “to come.” Other scholarship, ranging from Butler’s ideas about the performativity of gender to Lacan’s theorization of the self, similarly discusses how idealizations break down even as they are performatively asserted with the momentary manifestation of the particular never able to fully accord with idealized aspirations—including those of the transitional justice imaginary and its facadist externalizations. The chapter begins with a discussion of the ways in which Vann Nath’s testimony illustrates the ways the court seeks to performatively assert justice through courtroom rituals, roles, and discourses. The chapter then turns to examine the related work of the court’s “public face,” the Public Affairs Section (PAS), which promoted its success in busing in tens of thousands of Cambodians as evidence of public engagement with the court. The chapter discusses some of the ways in which the head of the PAS, Reach Sambath, who was sometimes referred to as “Spokesperson for the Ghosts,” translated justice when interacting with such Cambodians with many of whom he shared a deep Buddhist belief. I then explore the issues of “Justice Trouble,” or some of the ways in which the instability of the juridical performance at the ECCC broke down, including Theary Seng’s later condemnation of the court.

Keywords:   trial testimony, Vann Nath, Reach Sambath and ECCC Public Affairs Section, performance/performativity, “show trial” accusations/politicization, “Justice Trouble, ” Theary Seng and ECCC “farce, ” “the show, ” Nuon Chea, Duch, S-21 prison

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