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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid