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

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles 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.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid