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
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs