News / Asia

    Khmer Rouge Tribunal Continues Outreach Work As Trials Slow

    Monks attend the Khmer Rouge tribunal outreach in Samlaut district, western Cambodia on Friday 26, August 2011.
    Monks attend the Khmer Rouge tribunal outreach in Samlaut district, western Cambodia on Friday 26, August 2011.

    Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal is often in the news for the wrong reasons - funding problems, delays and allegations of political interference, to name a few.

    But although the judicial progress is slow, the Phnom Penh-based court continues to spread its message around the country, most recently in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Samlaut in western Cambodia.

    Samlaut district has a long association with the Khmer Rouge.  It was here in 1967 that the initial uprising took place which ultimately culminated in the rule of Pol Pot’s government between 1975 and 1979 and the deaths of around two million people.

    But the end of Khmer Rouge rule in 1979 did not mark the end of the movement. Propped up by Thailand, China and Western nations such as the United States, the Khmer Rouge ran their civil war from an arc of districts in western Cambodia.

    Samlaut was one of those areas.  It remained under Khmer Rouge control until the late 1990s when the movement finally collapsed in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise.

    The U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal was created to bring some sense of justice to victims of the Khmer Rouge.  But its creation took years of negotiations with Cambodian authorities who wanted to control the process.  The tribunal is modeled on the French legal system and includes local judges and international judges who are approved by both the U.N. and Cambodia.

    The Khmer Rouge tribunal tasked with prosecuting former leaders and those most responsible is understandably not popular in places like this, where some see it as the embodiment of victors’ justice.

    Court spokesman Lars Olsen, who visited Samlaut last week with the tribunal’s outreach team, says that provides a good reason for court representatives to visit.

    “I’m pleased that a relatively large number of people turned up and that after some hesitation at least they chose to air some of their thoughts about the court process," Olsen said. "And as one could have expected from an area like this that is inhabited by a lot of former Khmer Rouge, they have reservations about the court process and they also expressed this view very clearly.”

    Around 200 residents attended, sitting on plastic chairs under a multicolored tarpaulin.

    What they hear is straightforward enough: an explanation of how the court works, and discussion about its cases, including the tribunal’s first against the Khmer Rouge jailer Comrade Duch, who used to live in Samlaut.

    Six court staff made the 350-kilometer trip to Samlaut, including Deputy Prosecutor Vincent De Wilde d'Estmael.

    It fell to him to explain the role of the prosecution.

    “Our goal is to end the impunity regarding the crimes that were committed in the Democratic Kampuchea period," he explained. "Impunity has lasted too long. And, second, we would like that the truth is found about those crimes and that justice is rendered to the numerous Cambodian people who were victims of the crimes committed.

    It’s a message that frankly goes down better in non-Khmer Rouge areas of Cambodia.

    In Samlaut, residents said the tribunal was within its rights to prosecute the senior leaders, but nobody else. This man said that trying others could undermine peace and stability.

    That closely echoes the government’s opinion.  Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has long said he will not permit the prosecution of five mid-ranking Khmer Rouge cadres whom the tribunal is investigating.

    Olsen says in other parts of Cambodia people cannot understand how so few can be tried for such extraordinary crimes. “That’s obviously not the case here.  It was very much a focus of: Why do this now?  Why jeopardize the achievements they have had since the peace? And is this some kind of revenge?  And, of course, it’s important for us to hear these concerns and also be able to address them," he said.

    To date, the tribunal has held about a dozen public forums around the country. Most are targeted at victims of the Khmer Rouge.

    This outreach in Samlaut was the second to focus on a former Khmer Rouge stronghold.

    As the court gears up for the start next year of Case Two, the trial of the senior leaders, there will be many visits like this to make sure Cambodians on both sides of the divide are kept informed.


    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora