For former Khmer Rouge officers accused of participating in Cambodian genocide, Christianity offers salvation

Up to 2.2 million died, but a UN-backed tribunal has dropped charges against many of those responsible. Now some are turning their backs on Buddhism and looking to Jesus for redemption.

A wiry, shrew-like grandmother clambers out of her hammock, scuttles across her front yard, and breaks into a toothy grin of satisfaction as she shows us around the church she had built less than 15 metres from her home.

Inside the simple wooden building, she raises a claw-like hand and points out rows of recent snapshots showing her leading services of worship, engaging in evangelist work around the region, and emerging from a muddy river with a triumphantly pious smile following her baptism.

It is two years since the twilight-years epiphany of Im Chaem, but few neighbours appear to share the 77-year-old’s missionary zeal in this dusty backwater in far north Cambodia, where most people are devout Buddhists. Only her family and the occasional visiting cleric attend Sunday services at the church she converted from an old rice mill and filled with more red plastic chairs than its spartan congregation could ever hope to use.

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