News / Asia

    Khmer Rouge Genocide: Justice Delayed may be Justice Denied

    A Cambodian gestures outside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) courtroom during the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Jan. 10, 2012.A Cambodian gestures outside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) courtroom during the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Jan. 10, 2012.
    x
    A Cambodian gestures outside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) courtroom during the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Jan. 10, 2012.
    A Cambodian gestures outside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) courtroom during the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Jan. 10, 2012.
    Reuters
    Under Cambodia's murderous Khmer Rouge, Meas Mut and Sou Met, now two-star generals in their 80s, are said to have hauled prisoners to S-21, a torture center that symbolized the horrors of a regime that wiped out nearly a quarter of the population.
     
    Another soldier, Im Chaem, now a Buddhist nun in her 60s, is suspected of running a forced labour camp where fellow Khmer Rouge cadres Ta An and Ta Tith oversaw massacres in the ``Killing Fields'' revolution of 1975-79.
     
    Those allegations, contained in cases known as 003 and 004 at a UN-backed tribunal, are plunging Cambodia into soul searching over how far to pursue war-crimes accusations against former commanders, some of whom now occupy senior roles in government.
     
    They are also fuelling criticism of the United Nations over whether its cash-strapped joint Cambodian tribunal will ever deliver justice for victims of the ultra-Maoist regime that tore Cambodia apart and was responsible for up to 2.2 million deaths.
     
    The European Union, the second-biggest donor after Japan, has called on Cambodia to come up with more funding for the tribunal, where some workers went on strike last week after going for more than two months without pay. Cambodia says it has given more than its fair share and has appealed for bigger donations.
     
    The tribunal's new American judge, Mark Harmon, said last month he wanted to reopen case 003 involving former Khmer Rouge navy chief Meas Mut and former air force chief Sou Met.
     
    That puts him on a collision course with authoritarian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been accused of interfering to limit probes that could implicate powerful politicians. Meas Mut and Sou Met are now advisers to the Defense Ministry.
     
    Hun Sen, a close ally of China which was a key supporter of the Khmer Rouge during the ``Killing Fields'' years, has vowed to prevent new indictments and has said he would be happy if the United Nations left Cambodia. He was himself a Khmer Rouge fighter before defecting to Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia and toppled Pol Pot's regime in 1979.
     
    Almost every Cambodian alive lost a family member under the Khmer Rouge. Many fear the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC), which began work in 2006 after an agreement between the Cambodian government and the United Nations to try those “most responsible” for the killings, will fail to bring justice.
     
    The court, dogged from the outset by allegations of corruption, political interference and profligacy, had spent $175.3 million by the end of last year and handed down just one conviction - that of S-21's former prison chief, Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch”, who was jailed for life for the deaths of more than 14,000 people. He has repeatedly said he was ``just following orders''.
     
    Now on trial in the court's second case, known as 002, are the only remaining members of the inner circle of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who died in 1998: chief ideologue Nuon Chea, 86, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 87, and head of state Khieu Samphan, 81. They may not live to hear the verdicts. Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea have been in and out of hospital for years.
     
    Most of the suspects live in isolation away from the capital and have not talked about the accusations in public.
     
    While Hun Sen's government has done little to stop case 002, it has reason to be concerned with 003 and 004: some government officials occupied Khmer Rouge positions similar to those held by the suspects.
     
    Case “Remains Open”
     
    Harmon said case 003 ``remains open and the investigation of the alleged crimes is proceeding'' against members of Khmer Rouge navy and air force units for atrocities.
     
    Harmon, who arrived late last year after two predecessors quit in quick succession, has urged victims of the crimes alleged in 003 or people with knowledge of them to come forward.
     
    Case 004, involving Im Chaem, Ta An and Ta Tith, was also under investigation by judges, the court said. Ta Tith is now a wealthy businessman.
     
    The third and fourth cases have faced obstacles almost from the day they were initiated in 2008. Investigators and the public have struggled to gain access to case information, while financial difficulties threaten to shut the court down.
     
    One former judge, Laurent Kasper-Ansermet of Switzerland, resigned a year ago after finding himself in ``a highly hostile environment'' with Cambodian judge You Bunleng, whom he accused of blocking investigations.
     
    The cases would continue to divide the court, said Anne Heindel, an American lawyer and legal adviser to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities.
     
    “If (case 003) ever gets to trial chamber, it will be a new mess,” she said.
     
    Before Kasper-Ansermet resigned, he said four senior members of Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) should be interviewed in connection with possible war crimes.
     
    He identified National Assembly President Heng Samrin as a Khmer Rouge division commander when crimes were committed against Vietnamese civilians in 1977 and 1978, a court document showed.
     
    The document also recommended interviewing Senate and CPP President Chea Sim, Senator Ouk Bunchhoeun and armed forces chief Pol Saroeun.
     
    Kasper-Ansermet said investigators had discovered the Khmer Rouge attacked undefended villages and slaughtered whole families.
     
    Prosecutors decided not to pursue these allegations, saying they had already been investigated as part of case 002 and were unrelated to 003.
     
    “We are not interfering with the ECCC's work but facilitating them,” said Cambodian government spokesman Ek Tha, who denied “any influence or authority whatsoever” over the court.
     
    “Hun Sen decides everything in this country,” said Henri Locard, a French historian of modern Cambodia who interviewed Im Chaem two years ago.
     
    “I am protected by Hun Sen and I've done nothing,” Locard quoted her as saying.
     
    International donors, who already give Cambodia about $1 billion a year in aid, were reluctant to fund the controversial third and fourth cases, said Heindel, preferring the court to wind down with the second case as a successful legacy.
     
    That case was suspended on March 4 when 20 court translators went on strike over unpaid wages.
     
    Many Cambodians now accept that further Khmer Rouge prosecutions are unlikely.
     
    “We want all people to stand trial but it's useless because it's up to this dictatorial government to decide,” said Lorm Vichey, 57, who lost his mother and three brothers under the Khmer Rouge. “What can we do?”

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ian from: USA
    March 11, 2013 1:13 PM
    1) 1 billion in aid from international donors (Japan & EU)
    2) 175 millions for just "ONE" conviction of a genocide murderer, and not even a death sentence, just a life sentence , what a farce
    3) and they don't even pay the court workers for 2 months ! how did they spend that 175 millions ?
    The cambodian communist thugs that now in the government play the international donors like a fool .I suggest the EU & Japan to keep the money at home to help their own jobless citizens & revive their own economy .It is time for the cambodians who had their relatives killed during the genocide to take the law in their own hands . If they could killed 2 millions innocent peoples during the genocide , I am sure they can execute a few hundreds mastermind criminals if they want to .

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora