News / Asia

Khmer Rouge Trial Opens Old Wounds

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, Chum Mey (L) and Bou Meng (C) pray at Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, June 25, 2011
Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, Chum Mey (L) and Bou Meng (C) pray at Choeung Ek "Killing Fields" site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, June 25, 2011

The United Nations-backed trial of former senior Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia aims to bring some degree of justice after decades of impunity for their bloody revolution.  For the victims, the trial has re-opened painful wounds but also brings hope for healing.

Kup Aishah, a minority Cham Muslim, turns the pages of a large-print copy of the Koran.

Wearing a traditional navy blue headscarf she fondly recalls how she has had this Koran since she was 12 year old.

During Cambodia’s bloody Khmer Rouge era in the 1970s, when religion was outlawed, she wrapped it in plastic, dug a hole in her yard and hid it.

Kup Aishah says she was targeted for her beliefs and forced to eat dog meat and pork.   She only dared to unearth her Koran after the end of the Khmer Rouge.

She says it is difficult for her to talk about the communist extremists, because in their fervor to form a peasant utopia they killed most of her family.

She asks if the families of those leaders were killed, would they not suffer?  Did they not have families too?

Kup Aishah is attending the long-awaited war crimes trial in Phnom Penh of four former Khmer Rouge senior leaders whose policies she, like many, says directed the killing of up to two million Cambodians.

They are Khieu Samphan, then head of state, Ieng Sary, the foreign minister, his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was minister of social affairs, and Nuon Chea, known as “brother number two” for his position as second in command to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

They say they are innocent of all charges and Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge, has said the trial, only the second, should also be the last.

Theary Seng is president of the Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia.  Outside of the tribunal Monday Seng said the United Nations-backed court - in resisting new cases - is giving in to his government’s pressure.

“So, this is what is really unacceptable and disgusting.  The U.N. is basically violating its own principle of international standards, its own principle of judicial independence," he said. "We didn’t expect much from the Cambodian officials but we expected a lot more from the United Nations."

Several foreign staff at the court in June quit their jobs over the conflict. Court officials deny there has been any political interference.

On the first day of the trial Monday, hundreds of people filed in to watch the proceedings, including Kup Aishah.

Whether or not more leaders are brought to justice, it is clear that thousands of lower-level Khmer Rouge responsible for killings will never see trial.

But critics agree seeing any of the Khmer Rouge leaders in court after so many years is still a step forward in helping their victims to heal.

For Kup Aishah, she says there will only be justice if they are all found guilty and spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs