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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fairi
X
Brian Padden
May 29, 2015 1:27 PM
With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs