Killing Fields
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Link:  More Khmer Rouge leaders could face trial [CBC]

As inconceivable as it may seem, there are only five former Khmer Rouge leaders currently under investigation for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In early September Lars Olsen, legal spokesman for the UN-backed tribunal, said that more former Khmer Rouge leaders could be brought to trial as judges had given prosecutors the power to launch further investigations.

This was met with bitter opposition from Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen as he has been clear in his desire to limit the trials to the five original suspects.  Hun Sen has threatened to end UN participation in the trials if prosecutors dig deeper and critics have said that this is because the suspects are now his political allies.

Hun Sen even sunk so low as to claim that pursuing more suspects could spark civil war in the already fragile country.  Estimates now place the death toll from executions, disease, malnutrition and overwork during the Khmer Rouge regime at 1.7 million people or 20% of the total population at the time.  To limit the prosecutions to just five people is insulting as it is and Hun Sen’s attitude reeks of a cover up to me.

Do I believe it is relevant to go over these leader’s 30 years after the fact?  Well, we still go after SS members 65 years after the fact, so yes, I do believe it is relevant.  The pain and legacy of the Khmer Rouge may be less immediate to us in the West but reparations are equally as important.


Kaing Guek Eav

Better known as “Duch”, Kaing Guek Eav has been detained in a Cambodian military prison since 1999. He was in charge of the notorious S-21 prison and was instrumental in the torture and murder of 12,000 Cambodians.  He formally accepted responsibility for his crimes in March 2009 and apologized for his actions.  Duch’s trial is currently underway and reached headlines recently when his defence objected to a request from the prosecution to apply charges of joint criminal enterprise: Defence weighs in on controversial doctrine [Phnom Penh Post].  Final arguments are expected later this month.

Thirith Ieng

As Minister of Social Affairs and Head of Democratic Kampuchea's Red Cross Society, Thirith Ieng was instrumental in organising the massive purges of the Khmer Rouge movement and various policies that caused great suffering.  She was arrested in November 2007 and charged with crimes against humanity.  Her first court appearance was in May 2008 at the pre-trial hearing of her appeal.  She has not been in court since and investigations are still underway.

Ieng Sary

Known as "Brother number 3", Ieng Sary was the deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Khmer Rouge government.  He carried out some of Pol Pot’s most atrocious campaigns and implemented the massive purges.  Ieng Sary was charged with genocide and sentenced to death in absentia in 1979 but this conviction was not recognised by the international community.  He was pardoned by the king in 1996.  He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2007 and arrested along with his wife.  Many people have questioned why someone pardoned by the king was re-arrested but he was arrested on different charges.

Khieu Samphan

Khieu Samphan was commander-in-chief of the Khmer Rouge and first became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence when they took over in 1975, moving on to become President.  He put Pol Pot’s theories into practice and cleared the cities of their inhabitants, thus provoking the human tragedy in which up to 1.7 million people perished.  He was arrested in November 2007 and was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Nuon Chea

Designated “Brother number 2”, he headed the Permanent Committee of the Central Committee, which was in charge of labour, social welfare, culture, propaganda and formal education (or Conscience work). In 1976 he was acting Prime Minister and then from 1976 to 1979 was President of Assembly of Democratic Kampuchea.  After Pol Pot, he was the most powerful member of the regime and was the key ideologist.  He was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity and arrested in September 2007.  An order was passed in September 2009 authorising his continued detainment.

Up to date information on the trials can be found at Cambodia Tribunal Monitor.

About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is an accountant living and working in London. She is passionate about world events such as genocide and apartheid and has a desire to understand how these events continue to occur in the modern world. With a focus on the 20th and 21st centuries, A Passion to Understand reflects her continuing research and reading on these topics.
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  1. You know, I remember reading about this group in an English class, and what I heard was just detestable. I do agree with you about going after the guilty, no matter what the age.

    Crimes against humanity for any reason should be punishable by death. At least, that's what I feel.

  2. @ Lauren: In English class? Why English, if I may ask? Was it a book that you were reading?


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