News / Asia

    For Some Cambodians, Too Little Too Late from Tribunal

    Former Khmer Rouge leadership from left: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Khieu Samphan, at trial, Phnom Penh, Nov. 21, 2011.
    Former Khmer Rouge leadership from left: Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, and Khieu Samphan, at trial, Phnom Penh, Nov. 21, 2011.

    As the much criticized U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal nears its first verdict for senior leaders of the radical regime, its future is in doubt.

    Many survivors of the brutal regime have described the tribunal as being too slow, handing down only one verdict since its 2006 inception.

    Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as "Duch," was sentenced to life in prison last year for his role in killing more than 14,000 while running Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng torture and execution center.

    Only two other leaders remain in custody: Nuon Chea, 87, the regime’s ideologue, and Khieu Samphan, 82, its nominal head of state.

    A verdict in at least one of the cases could come next month. What happens after their trial is concluded, however, is an open question. Many observers predict the court, which has struggled financially and shouldered criticisms of mismanagement, corruption and political interference, will be dissolved.

    Ear Sophal, a Cambodian-American academic and author, tells VOA Khmer the tribunal process has been a disappointment, even in Duch's case.

    “I don’t think there was a single Cambodian who probably thought, 'oh, this makes sense, you know, this is a good outcome,'” he said. “Of course, the international community thought this was a good outcome: 'finally, he’s been found guilty; finally he’s going to jail.' But for a lot of Cambodians, this was like rubbing salt in a wound.”

    Cambodian-American Sichan Siv, a former U.S. government official, says the tribunal has taken too long and cost too much money. 

    “For a country as poor as Cambodia, do you want to know how many teachers you could train with that money, how many nurses you can provide and how many hospitals and schools you can build?” he said. “And to spend that much money to bring these people to injustice, in a way, it’s a waste of resources.”

    Cambodia’s tribunal has made only five indictments, ultimately trying just three people. By comparison, the Yugoslavian war crimes trials produced 161 indictments, while trials in Rwanda saw 95 and Sierra Leone saw 22.

    However, Craig Etcheson, former investigator at the tribunal, said it would have taken a lot of time to investigate the millions of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge while it was in power.

    “One of the key goals of the Khmer Rouge tribunal was to demonstrate to Cambodians in Cambodia how the rule of law works in a proper context,” Etcheson said. “The defendants have many rights, and they exercise all of those rights. This consumes a great deal of time.”

    Etcheson said the tribunal was in part an experiment to see whether international justice could be accomplished without great financial cost, explaining that it cost only a fraction of the price of other international tribunals.

    “Two-hundred million dollars seems like a lot of money to you and me, but if you think about the two million or more victims of the Pol Pot regime, the $200 million cost of the Khmer Rouge tribunal would add up to investing $100 per person who was killed by the Khmer Rouge,” he said. “And I don’t think $100 per victim is too much to pay for seeking justice.”

    As many as 2 million Cambodians died from starvation, overwork and executions during the four-year rule of the Khmer Rouge, which attempted to create an agrarian communist utopia.

    The group's leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and co-founder Ieng Sary died earlier this year.

    This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Frankie Fook-lun Leung from: Los Angeles
    July 30, 2014 4:14 PM
    There are many reasons accounting for the delay, one of which is lack of funding. Big countries except Japan ever took a keen interest.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.