News / Asia

Cambodia Races Death, Dwindling Resources on Khmer Rouge War Crimes

In this photo taken, May 20, 2013, hundreds of former Khmer Rouge victims' bone and skulls are displayed in a memorial at Choeung Ek "Killing Field" in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In this photo taken, May 20, 2013, hundreds of former Khmer Rouge victims' bone and skulls are displayed in a memorial at Choeung Ek "Killing Field" in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The clock is ticking at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal, where the two elderly defendants are in poor health and funds vital for bringing some semblance of justice for the horrors of the “Killing Fields” era are fast drying up.
On trial are 87-year-old “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and former president Khieu Samphan, 81, the right-hand men of the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, whose dream of a peasant utopia claimed as many as 2.2 million Cambodian lives from 1975-1979.
The hybrid U.N.-Cambodian tribunal has so far reached a verdict in just one case, the life sentence in 2010 for Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch”, chief of the S-21 torture center where 14,000 people died. Prosecutors face a race against time to ensure Duch is not alone.
They are asking for life imprisonment for the two cadres in a complex case being fast-tracked to salvage something from a court set up in 2005 ostensibly to bring Cambodians closure for one of the darkest, bloodiest chapters of the twentieth century.
Khieu Samphan was no figurehead, but a “skilful, manipulative” leader, while Nuon Chea was as much an extremist today as he was when almost a quarter of Cambodians died of execution, starvation, torture or disease, international deputy prosecutor William Smith said in his final arguments.
International civil party lawyer Christine Martineau launched a scathing attack on the defendants' claims they had no role in directing the bloodshed.
“You followed Pol Pot until his last day, you were the two men he trusted. You never distanced yourself from him,” Martineau told the court last week.
“You continue to lie to this day.”
Time and funds running out
The words have made little dent on the defendants. Khieu Samphan showed no emotion throughout the final arguments that began last week and for long periods he sat with his eyes shut.
The former Khmer Rouge cadres are all that remains from case 002, which initially had four defendants charged with crimes against humanity and genocide, among other offenses.
Many fear that only Khieu Samphan will live to hear his verdict. Nuon Chea is in poor health and has attended much of the proceedings via video from his cell. Former foreign minister Ieng Sary died earlier this year and his wife, former social affairs minister, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and declared unfit for trial.
To try to secure a conviction, Case 002 was broken up into smaller cases. The current hearing is about their alleged role in the forced evacuation of the Phnom Penh in 1975 and execution of government troops. The court expects a verdict within the first half of next year.
Kuy Ke, a 62-year-old rural farmer, said he feared facing Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in the afterlife if there was no ruling soon.
“We want punishment,” he said. “In one to two years, they will die.”
There are more Khmer Rouge members under investigation and two generals, Meas Mut and Sou Met, faced possible indictment. Sou Met died in June, however, and it was unclear if Meas Mut would ever appear before the tribunal.
Due process takes time the court does not appear to have. It also takes funding from increasingly reluctant donor countries, $173 million from 2006-2012, and three foreign judges have quit, two citing “political interference”.
Cambodia's government, which includes some former Khmer Rouge members, has not helped much either. It is obliged to foot the bill for the local staff and running costs of the chamber, but instead asks for donations, fuelling claims it wants to ensure no more cases go to court.
Activists and rights groups fear it will get its way.
“With uncertain foreign funding, government obstruction and concerns about the health of the accused, the likelihood of such trials occurring are slim at best,” the Cambodia Center for Human Rights said in a tribunal briefing.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Igor from: Russia
October 23, 2013 12:15 AM
The UN has failed for many years to bring those war and extermination criminals to justice. We must thank Vietnam, not the UN, for liberating Cambodians from Khmer Rouge regime. And we will never forget that US and its allies used to habour and support the Khmer Rouge during those dark days.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs