Former KR Troops Want Trial

pailin – Though he risked his life for more than 25 years fighting for the Khmer Rouge, Seng Thoeun says he wants to see his former leaders and commanders brought to trial.

“I want to know who did wrong,” he said. “People are always accusing all the Khmer Rouge for doing wrong, but I was also suppressed by the Khmer Rouge. If we have a trial, we can know who are the masterminds.”

Other ex-rank-and-file rebel soldiers living in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin echoed the same sentiments as Seng Thoeun.

Although earlier reports showed many Pailin residents didn’t want a trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders, it appears that attitude is felt mainly by former rebel commanders, many of whom have benefited financially from the peace that came in 1996.

The commanders said if there is a trial, Pailin residents would likely take up arms again and the country would be thrown back into war.

But the non-ranking Khmer Rouge soldiers who have been struggling to get by since thousands of them defected and joined the government four years ago say they do not want to fight any longer.

Instead, they say they want to know the truth of what happened during the Khmer Rouge years and understand what they fought for. They also are fed up with the uneven prosperity that has come with peace.

One former Khmer Rouge soldier, who is blind in one eye from a 1978 injury, said previously Pailin residents didn’t want a trial, but their thinking has changed, partly because they have seen their former leaders become rich while they are suffering.

“Most people in Pailin now want a trial to happen, not only for the high leaders but also for the lower leaders who personally carried out orders,” he said. “They said when the war was finished, we would have a good life, but only the leaders got rich.”

Kong Samrach, a former rebel soldier, said he is happy that the international community and others have been calling for a Khmer Rouge tribunal.

“I do not support the Khmer Rouge leaders even though I am a Khmer Rouge member,” he said. “During the Pol Pot regime, the leaders forced people to work hard and starve. They suppressed and forced me to be a soldier.”



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