The Khmer Rouge Legacy and Transitional Justice in Cambodia

In light of the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and worldwide travel restrictions, which are expected to remain in place for an indefinite period of time, Stanford University is suspending all BOSP Summer Quarter 2019-20 programs (see full announcement).

Seminar Quick Facts

Locations: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia

David Cohen, Center for Human Rights and International Justice / Classics
Jessie Brunner, Center for Human Rights and International Justice

Arrival date in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: June 22, 2020

Departure date from Siem Reap, Cambodia: July 5, 2020

Information Session: October 15 (4:30pm-5:30pm) in Encina Commons, rm. 123

Program Cost: $600 program fee. Fee covers room and board, transportation and course activities during the program. Fee excludes airfare to/from the program location. Financial assistance towards the program fee and cost of travel may be available. Please visit the Overseas Seminar Overview webpage for complete information.

Academic Prerequisites
Prior coursework in human rights, genocide studies, transitional justice, Cambodia and/or Southeast Asia would be an advantage, but is not required.

Additional Program Requirements
1) Vaden Travel Health Orientation
1x1 Appointment with Vaden Travel Clinic
Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Activity Level
Light/Moderate: Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museum and other site visits as well as an occasional physical activity such as snorkeling, hiking, or kayaking. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information for Travelers to Cambodia

US State Department Country Information: Cambodia

Visa Information: Consulate General of Cambodia

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars Overview page

Application Deadline: January 26, 2020 at 11:59pm (applications will open in December 2019). Please visit BOSP's Application Process page for more information.

Questions? Schedule an appointment with a BOSP staff member.

General Description

The ongoing trials at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC),as part of a larger transitional justice process, ushered in an era in which Cambodians finally began to examine their experience of the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-1979). Our seminar will focus on Cambodia’s experience of civil war, trials, reparations, reconciliation, and coming to terms with the past. We will have guest speakers from the ECCC, the United Nations, relevant NGOs, and young Cambodian human rights lawyers and academics. While in Phnom Penh, we will visit the ECCC, the National Genocide Museum,  the “killing fields”, NGO offices, and other pertinent sites, both for formal meetings and historical tours. We will then spend several days in Siem Reap, a popular destination in northwest Cambodia owing to its proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor, which features the famed Angkor Wat temple, among many other cultural and historical treasures.


Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia. The 700-year-old city of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was once known as the "Pearl of Asia.” The city was all but destroyed in the Khmer Rouge period, owing to constant shelling and, eventually, forcible evacuation. The city is noted for its historical architecture and cultural sites, and today has embraced a cafe culture. However, today, sitting at the intersection of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong, and Bassac Rivers, Phnom Penh is home to about 2 million people and has a strong food scene and cafe culture. Siem Reap is the top tourist destination in the country as home to  the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Angkor temple complex, among many other important cultural and historical sites.

Living and Travel Conditions

Accommodations will be in boutique hotels in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. We will have a bus that will take us to our various site visits in both locations. We will fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (25 minutes flight). In Siem Reap we will be visiting the great temple complexes like Angkor Wat which will require moderate walking. Depending on weather conditions, we will also take a short hike (about 1 hour) to a sacred spring in the mountains outside of  Siem Reap. Summer is rainy season in Cambodia so this may affect the timing for some of our excursions. The weather will be hot and humid with likely a couple of hours of rain most afternoons or evenings.


David Cohen directs the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford. He and the Center have been working in Cambodia continuously since 2005, primarily focused on the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. We have monitored all the proceedings at the Tribunal, produced films and a television show on the trials, and engaged in extensive community outreach projects around the country. Our television show has been broadcast on the largest Cambodian networks to inform Cambodians about the work of the Court and its importance for Cambodia. Cohen has also engaged in transitional justice, human rights, and judicial reform work in Indonesia, the Philippines, East Timor (Timor Leste), Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

Jessie Brunner serves as Senior Program Manager of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Stanford University. Here she manages student programs, including the Minor in Human Rights, as well as Center collaborations and several research activities. In addition to work on criminal justice reform, Jessie currently researches issues relevant to data collection in the human trafficking field, with a focus on Southeast Asia. She works on these issues at the local level with the San Francisco Mayor’s Task Force on Anti-Human Trafficking and at the global level as a member of Knowledge Platform Reference Group of Alliance 8.7, which helps set the UN agenda on Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 related to human trafficking and forced labour. She is the author of Inaccurate Numbers, Inadequate Policies: Enhancing Data to Evaluate the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in ASEAN (2015), Getting to Good Human Trafficking Data: Everyday Guidelines for Frontline Practitioners in Southeast Asia (2018) and Getting to Good Data: Assessing the Landscape in Southeast Asia and Promising Practices from ASEAN Governments and Civil Society (2018). Jessie previously led a BOSP Faculty Initiated Program to Bogotá focused on understanding the Colombian peace process as a complement to her HUMRTS 107: Understanding the Impact of New Technologies on Human Rights Investigations and Transitional Justice course. Previously, Jessie served as a researcher at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law ’s Program on Human Rights; a Public Affairs Assistant at the State Department in the Bureau on Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; a reporter for Los Angeles Times Community News; and a non-profit public relations/marketing manager. In addition to serving as a trial monitor at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Jessie has worked on human rights and post-conflict reconciliation in Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Rwanda, the Philippines, and Thailand. Brunner earned a MA in International Policy Studies from Stanford University and a BA in Mass Communications and a Spanish minor at UC Berkeley.

Prerequisites and Expectations

There are no formal prerequisite courses. The expectation is that participants will read an assigned book on Cambodia prior to arrival in Phnom Penh,which will give them general background and a common foundation. Participation in daily activities is expected. This will typically include a morning session of about 2 hours where we will discuss readings and have frequent guest speakers/discussants. Each afternoon we will be visiting places associated with the Khmer Rouge period and its aftermath, the trials, as well as NGOs and other organizations involved in coming to terms with the past and dealing with current human rights issues.

Application Process

The maximum number of participants is 15. Decisions will be based on the application materials. There will be no interviews.

Grading Basis

Satisfactory/No credit

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the  Consulate General of Cambodia. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT
VisaCentral by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to Cambodia. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in Cambodia.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.

Program Modification and Cancelation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at