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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs