In convicting the former leader of the secret police in July, the Khmer Rouge tribunal offered the former regime’s victims a list of intangibles: a place in history, official recognition of their suffering and the apologies of the accused.
But for Prak Sinann of Kampot province, who lost five members of her family and as a teenage girl in 1978 was assigned to a husband in a mass ceremony with 37 others, the victims of Democratic Kampuchea deserve something which will help them cope with their trauma and live their lives today.
“I have heard that we’ll get compensation but it is kind of tough. I got the feeling that the court is tough with the plaintiffs,” she said in an interview conducted last week by the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
“People in the whole country were victimized. I want something for the people, not empty hands, since the people who have filed complaints are those who struggle,” she said.
“The wounds that Cambodians have until now, no one could heal. I want the court to open a hospital or find a way to give psychological therapy to people,” she said.
Just over 2,000 people have been admitted as civil parties to next year’s trials of senior regime leaders in a case with the largest number of potential victims of any in 65 years.
The 66 recognized civil parties in the trial of former S-21 Chairman Kaing Guek Eav were not offered material assistance. Trial judges rejected as vague or impermissible all civil party claims for damages, including the construction of memorials, education and outreach programs and providing medical care.
The accused was found in any event to be too poor to pay any damages.
But a conclave of the tribunal’s judges this month altered the court’s procedural rules, creating the possibility that, as civil party lawyers have long asked, a fund may be established to pay reparations.
The new rules have yet to be published and civil party lawyers, including the recently appointed lead civil party co-lawyer Pich Ang, were reluctant to discuss the matter.
In telephone interviews, Ms Sinann said that, while she did not mind being identified in the news media, she planned to ask her lawyer to have her name stricken from court records. Victims in the tribunal’s previous trial were listed in the court’s final judgment.
“I don’t want the court to display my name since I am in the light while they are in the darkness,” she said, describing Khmer Rouge partisans she said might wish to harm her.
She did not know the date in 1978 when she was forced to wed but that she told her new husband that the killing left her no hope for a marriage.
“I told him to leave, that there was no future for us. I knew this because my family members had died,” she said.