Anlong Veng Backs Trial of KR Leaders

Khieu Samphan Would Voluntarily Testify, Hun Sen Says

anlong veng district, Oddar Mean­chey province – Mak Deth welcomed the news that former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan is willing to voluntarily appear in a tribunal to try those responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million Cambodians.

After fighting for Khieu Sam­phan and the regime’s other leaders for more than 20 years, Mak Deth says he is tired and feels cheated by those who pro­mised that peace would bring happiness.

“We are hopeless after we became integrated into the government,” he said. “We have come out empty-handed while our leaders have everything and forgot what we did for more than 20 years. So we are happy to see this trial.”

Residents in this last Khmer Rouge stronghold that fell to government forces in 1998 echoed Mak Deth’s sentiments during Prime Minister Hun Sen’s trip to the area Friday. Hun Sen went to assure rank-and-file former Khmer Rouge that they had no reason to fear a tribunal.

During the visit, Hun Sen also said he received information from Khieu Samphan, the public face of the Khmer Rouge, who said he would testify in court. Khieu Samphan is among the former leaders of Democratic Kampuchea who would likely be prosecuted in a Khmer Rouge trial.

Hun Sen said it would be good if other Khmer Rouge leaders followed Khieu Samphan’s example. The premier also told Anlong Veng residents that only a handful of Khmer Rouge leaders would be tried, including commander Ta Mok and S-21 prison head Duch, who are the only cadre in custody.

“Please, all of you understand that this trial is for top leaders,” Hun Sen said. “We are not taking 12 million people to be tried because there will be no one left.”

Although many Anlong Veng residents previously said they would not support a Khmer Rouge trial and would take up arms again if a court was established, they said they no longer feel that way because they now understand the tribunal draft law recently passed by the National Assembly and Senate.

Previously, they said they were worried that they would also be prosecuted in a tribunal. But now that they know the trial will only indict top cadre members, Anlong Veng residents said they will no longer fight for their former leaders.

“I know I am a small person and [the leaders] used me to fight for many years,” Mak Deth said. “Now it’s time for me to take care of my family. Even if those commanders call me to go to the jungle to fight because of the trial, I will not go.”

Residents living in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin have expressed similar feelings, saying they are also angry at their former leaders, who have gotten rich while they remain poor. They too have said they will no longer fight for their leaders.

Anlong Veng resident Long Vong, a teacher during the Khmer Rouge regime who joined the movement in 1972, said he supports the work of the government and the UN on the draft law.

“We don’t want to have war again,” he said. “I have no thoughts of struggling to fight for the Khmer Rouge leaders anymore. I don’t want to walk toward disaster. I have to take care of my children and my farm.”

Khem Them, one of Tam Mok’s most loyal lieutenants before defecting to the government in 1998, said Anlong Veng will remain peaceful, despite the tribunal draft law. The draft law is now being considered by the Constitutional Council before it is passed to King Norodom Sihanouk.

“I think nothing will happen because only the top people will be tried,” he said.

Hun Sen told former Khmer Rouge commanders Yim Phanna and others who were present during his speech that they had no reason to worry.

“At that time, you were all young,” the prime minister said. “But if you are called by the court to come as a witness, please go.”

Hun Sen has repeatedly warned of instability and even war if former Khmer Rouge deputy premier Ieng Sary is tried. Hun Sen has  said Ieng Sary helped bring peace to Cambodia by leading a mass defection of Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1996, after which King  Sihanouk granted him amnesty for a 1979 death sentence.

UN legal expert Hans Corell sent a letter to the government earlier this month expressing concern that the tribunal draft law should contain no ambiguity over the court’s authority to indict any Khmer Rouge leader, even if he enjoys a government amnesty.

During the Anlong Veng visit, Hun Sen backed down from his earlier statements about Ieng Sary, saying he has no right to prevent anyone from being tried because it’s up to the courts decide who will be prosecuted.

“The law does not allow the prime minister to ban the court from charging an individual,” Hun Sen said.

The premier also said Duch and Ta Mok, who have been in prison for more than one year, should not be kept in custody much longer because their health is deteriorating. According to the law, Duch and Ta Mok can be kept in prison for three years without a trial, which Hun Sen said could begin later this year.

“I am worried that their lives are in danger,” Hun Sen said.


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