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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    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.
    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