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Khmer Rouge Victims Seek Memorials in Tribunal Closing Statements

Survivors of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime packed a courtroom in Phnom Penh on Wednesday to hear the start of closing statements in the trial of the group's most senior living ex-leaders.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for their part in the 1970s rule of the communist Khmer Rouge, which is blamed for the deaths of as many as 2 million Cambodians.

Pich Ang, a lawyer for the civil party complainants, told the court his clients are seeking the construction of memorials in Phnom Penh and Paris, as well as a national Cambodian holiday.

"Assigning a date of remembrance will serve as a day to restore dignity to Khmer Rouge victims which include those who died and those who are still alive. The survivors can remember their loved ones. It will serve also as a memory of the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge time, which will enable healing and restoring dignity to the victims. It will also be a reminder that such a regime will not come back."

More than 3,800 victims have been accepted as civil party claimants in Case 002, against the aging former leaders. In Case 001, the court convicted notorious prison warden Kaing Kek Eav , also known as Duch .

Thirty-one victims were selected to testify in the latest case, which covers crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during the evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975.

Closing statements are expected to run through the end of this month. A verdict is expected in the first half of next year.

Long Mom is a villager who traveled from Kompong Speu province to attend the hearing.

"I want the court to sentence these two leaders to life because many people were killed in that regime."

Nuon Chea was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist. Khieu Samphan served as its head of state. Prosecutors say they helped mastermind one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Both men deny the charges, saying they were attempting to create a socialist utopia.

In order to speed up the prosecution of the group's aging leaders, the tribunal split the case into several smaller trials.

The current case has seen a number of setbacks, including the loss of two defendants. Former foreign secretary Ieng Sary died this year at age 87. His wife, Ieng Thirith was found mentally unfit for trial.

The only case completed by the tribunal since its founding in 2006 was the trial of Duch, who was given a life sentence for his role in running an infamous torture and execution center in Phnom Penh.
Several senior court officials have resigned complaining of interference from the Cambodian government.
(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.)

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