Hundreds Gather to Mark 38 Years Since Fall of Phnom Penh

Wednesday marked 38 years since Khmer Rouge troops marched into Phnom Penh, beginning what would be three years, eight months and 20 days of brutality, death and destruction under Pol Pot.

Marking the 38th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge, people pay their respects to the dead at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)
Marking the 38th anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge, people pay their respects to the dead at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Lauren Crothers/The Cambodia Daily)

To mark the anniversary, about 300 people gathered at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh—the site where several thousand people were bludgeoned to death as part of the regime’s bloody purges.

Wiping away tears, small groups of people knelt in front of the stupa that houses the skulls of many of those victims, offering incense and flowers.

Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy also used the day to take pot shots at unnamed deputy prime ministers during a ceremony at Choeung Ek attended by 48 monks and organized by the Human Rights Party, Sam Rainsy Party and the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). In a rambling speech blasted through loudspeakers, Mr. Rainsy said by telephone from the U.S. that the wheels of justice have moved too slowly since the regime fell in 1979, and that members of government must be held accountable.

“We could not give up on justice,” he said. “The CNRP would never forget to demand justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime.

“The ministers and deputy prime ministers who were members of the Khmer Rouge are now working in the current government, and they are hindering the trial,” he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other government officials have repeatedly voiced objections to the investigation of the cases known as 003 and 004 by the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal.

So Soeun, 69, lost three children and 15 relatives over the course of the regime. They were evacuated from Phnom Penh and sent to Takeo province, where they were forced to labor despite a lack of food.

Sixty-three-year-old Lonh Ngon from Kandal province lost two brothers under Pol Pot.

“I want the ECCC to try these Khmer Rouge leaders soon—I lost two brothers during the Khmer Rouge, and I come here every year with other supporters to pray for them,” he said.

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