Peace through Retribution or Reconciliation? Some Insights and Evidence from South-East Asia

  • Sorpong Peou


Over the last two decades or so, liberal proponents of retributive justice (defined loosely as a form of judicial punishment through formal trials) in the West have been on the march under the globalist banner declaring a brave battle on behalf of those victimized by armed conflict and atrocity crime.1 Only retribution, not reconciliation through compromise and mercy, helps end war and builds peace in post-conflict societies. But if peacebuilding has its limits,2 we may need to ask why. I made a case against the principle of legal retribution in states where former mortal enemies are trapped in the insecurity dilemma.3 In recent years, South-East Asian leaders have also learned that retribution does not help end armed conflict or deter atrocity crime. Because of space constraints, this chapter relies on two country case studies — Cambodia and Timor-Leste — to help shed some light on this proposition. Some scholars provide critical perspectives on these cases, questioning whether the liberal peace is transferrable.4 This chapter contends that liberal peacebuilding has the potential to be more successful if the path of political reconciliation is taken more seriously.


United Nations International Criminal Court Khmer Rouge Retributive Justice Mass Atrocity 
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  • Sorpong Peou

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