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Khmer Rouge Leader to Be Investigated as Case Progresses

FILE - Ta An, a former Khmer Rouge commander, speaks during an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer at his house in Kamrieng district of Cambodia's northwestern Battambang province, July 27, 2011. (Sok Khemara/VOA Khmer)

Another suspect appearing before the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be investigated, the U.N.-backed court said Tuesday.

International investigating judge Michael Bohlander has put Ao An, better known as Ta An, under investigation, though the decision was not supported by his Cambodian counterpart. A tribunal spokesman would not confirm whether there is a division between the two judges over the fourth case to be investigated, number 004.

Critics of the court say they doubt cases 003 and 004 will see trial, as they have been strongly opposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government leaders.

Ta An appeared in court in March 2015, but will face more charges under the current investigation, the court said.

The announcement follows a court decision to separate the case of Khmer Rouge leader Im Chaem from case 004, which includes suspect Ta An and another leader, Ta Tith.

Alleged ties to atrocities

Prosecutors say Ta An oversaw a number of Khmer Rouge atrocities as he rose to deputy secretary of the Central Zone under the regime's political structure.

As such, he was second in command in the area, based in Kampong Cham province, where up to 150,000 people died under the regime, including a large number of Cham minorities.

The charges now include genocide against Muslims and crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, and persecution against Lon Nol soldiers, Khmer Rouge cadres of the Central Zone, and people from the Eastern Zone. Other inhumane acts include forced marriage, rape, disappearances, physical abuse, forced labor, persecution against the Cham and Vietnamese people, and inhumane conditions at detention facilities.

In an exclusive interview with VOA Khmer in 2011, Ta An rejected the charges against him. He does not yet have a defense attorney.

Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the Phnom Penh-based rights group Adhoc, said although cases against Ta An and other leaders not in detention have taken too long, he supports Bohlander's decision to push forward.

"This is the kind of development that the public has awaited for a long time," he said.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.