News / Asia

Cambodian Anxiety Peaks Ahead of Khmer Rouge Verdict

In Cambodia, the trial of a leading Khmer Rouge figure, blamed for the deaths of about 16,000 people, is heading for a conclusion.  

The trial of Kang Guek Eav, also known as Duch, has gripped this nation for almost a year and a half.  Millions of people are expected to watch on television as the verdict is announced, Monday, by a United Nations-backed court.

Duch ran the S21 torture and extermination center, where thousands of men, women and children were processed before being sent to dig their own graves in the killing fields on the outskirts of the capital.

Initially, Duch pleaded no contest.  Throughout the tribunal he has provided an abundance of chilling evidence into the inner workings of Pol Pot and his ultra-Maoists.

They ruled Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 and are being held responsible for the deaths of perhaps two million people, who died of murder, starvation and illness.

But, in a final legal twist, Duch changed his plea to not guilty and asked the judges to release him.  He has sacked the head of his international defense team, French Lawyer Francois Roux, and asked for a Chinese lawyer to replace him.

Theary Seng survived the killing fields as a child.  She was rescued from the refugee camps and raised in the United States, where she became an author and lawyer. She is the founder of the Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

"There's a lot of confusion at the moment because recently we were told Duch fired his U.N. lawyer at the 11th hour, on the advent of the verdict, which is very perplexing," Seng says.  "And, it has raised suspicions again of political interference.  It has raised cynicism.  It has confirmed the fears of many Cambodians in thinking that Duch is not believable, in the first place - that his confession, his asking for forgiveness - aren't genuine and hopeful the fears won't turn into paranoia."

The Cambodian government has directed all domestic television networks to broadcast the verdict.

At the court, about 300 journalists and hundreds more officials, diplomats, legal observers and Khmer Rouge victims have overwhelmed authorities in seeking seats for the announcement.

Regardless of Duch's last-minute legal maneuvers, Theary Seng, along with many others, believe his admissions to overseeing crimes of torture that included water boarding and medical operations on patients without an anesthetic and the eventual murders of thousands of people will lead to a conviction and life in prison.

His evidence would also prove compelling in cases to follow. Another four surviving Khmer Rouge leaders - Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith - are to on trial next year.

"It's a catalyst that has broken the silence of the last 30 years of this regime, which has truly taken the lives of one-fourth to one-third of the Cambodian population.  Every Cambodian alive right now is directly affected by the crimes of the past," Seng said.

After the Khmer Rouge were ousted by invading Vietnamese troops in early 1979, civil war continued for another two decades. Only then was Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in a position to ask the United Nations to help broker an international tribunal to focus on the atrocities allegedly carried out by Pol Pot and his henchmen.

Further delays followed, amid bickering with the United Nations about the final make-up of the tribunal and funding issues.  However, the long awaited trial eventually got underway and is expected to remain a fixture on this country's legal and political landscape for a few years to come.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs