King Norodom Sihanouk marked Saturday’s 29th anniversary of Phnom Penh’s fall to the Khmer Rouge by calling for the cremation of the remains of the victims of the killing fields and dismissing the proposed UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The King began his missive, posted on his Web site, by repeating his dismay that many bones of those who died during the 1975-79 Democratic Kampuchea regime have remained on display around the country.
“We are Buddhists whose belief and custom since ancient times has always been to cremate the corpse and then bring the remains to place in the stupa at the pagoda,” the King wrote in Khmer.
He said Cambodians justified enshrining the remains by claiming them as evidence with which to prosecute surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.
“The international [community] and the United Nations have offered a vast wealth of funds to aid the tribunal process. I anticipate that this tribunal will be cosmetic and insult the miserable souls” of the victims, the King wrote.
He did not explain his skepticism.
King Sihanouk also said he had tried to pay for victims’ cremations in the past, but accusations that he was destroying evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity prevented him.
The King said he had no more plans to sponsor cremations, but he added that the Documentation Center of Cambodia will be able to provide the tribunal with sufficient evidence of the Khmer Rouge’s brutalities.
Also on Saturday, at least 600 relatives of the more than 1 million people who died under Pol Pot’s rule gathered at the Choeung Ek killing fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh for a Buddhist ceremony hosted by the opposition party.
“We performed the ceremony to dedicate merit to the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide and also to encourage the new government to immediately form an international Khmer Rouge tribunal to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leaders in order to offer justice to those victims,” said Kong Korm, who is serving as the Sam Rainsy Party’s acting president while Sam Rainsy is in France.
In a speech given at the ceremony, Kong Korm attacked Khieu Samphan, former nominal leader of the Khmer Rouge, for ducking responsibility for deaths caused by his government.
“It is very cowardly and disrespectful to the slain and the victims, who Khieu Samphan has hidden from,” Kong Korm said.
“I urge an end to the culture of impunity in Cambodia,” he said.