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Cambodia and the UN - 2003-03-13

A top UN official is in Cambodia for talks on what diplomats have called Cambodia’s last chance to try the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge. More from VOA-TV’s Carol Pearson.

When Bou Meng read a newspaper report that he had died of old age, the 61-year-old survivor of the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious torture camp, left his wooden hut in southeast Cambodia and traveled to the capital to show that he was still alive and anxious to bring his torturers to justice.

Bou Meng was one of more than 10,000 prisoners held behind the barbed wire gates of Phnom Penh’s S-21 prison camp during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal four-year rule. He is one of only seven survivors. And their numbers are dwindling.

The Khmer Rouge was a guerrilla movement that grew out of the polarized politics of the Cold War. The guerrillas tried to create a totally agrarian peasant state during their rule from 1975 to 1979.

Instead, they created the Killing Fields in which nearly two million people died of starvation, torture, execution, or exhaustion in one of the 20th century’s most appalling crimes against humanity.

Bou Meng was beaten with electric whips every day while he was in prison.

“They tortured me for no reason. I had done nothing wrong. And now I want justice done. I didn’t know what they were accusing me of. They just came and arrested me and took me to S-21. When I got there, I found out they were accusing me of being a CIA spy.”

A huge body of evidence has been amassed, but in five years of negotiations, the UN and the Cambodian government have not been able to come to terms over the creation of a genocide court.

Phnom Penh insisted on having the final word on legal decisions which prompted the United Nations to accuse the government of not being serious about ensuring a fair tribunal.

In December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for one more effort to try to strike a deal.

Meantime, senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge live freely in Cambodia. They have never had to account for the nearly two million people they killed.