After two rounds of legislative elections, most former Khmer Rouge loyalists have decided they favor democracy and are looking forward to voting in July’s poll, Mei Makk, Pailin Cabinet chief and Municipal Election Committee director, said Thursday.
“Most of the former Khmer Rouge like the democratic process. They like peace—they don’t want war anymore,” said Mei Makk, himself the former Khmer Rouge military commander in charge of Pochentong Airport.
Of an estimated 20,000 eligible voters in Pailin, the Khmer Rouge’s last stronghold, 94 percent have registered to vote, including former Khmer Rouge prime minister Khieu Samphan and Brother No 2 Nuon Chea, Mei Makk said. The National Election Committee’s nationwide estimate is 93 percent.
Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge’s foreign minister, has registered in Phnom Penh, Mei Makk added.
“These former Khmer Rouge are very loyal [to the current government] and eager to learn new things,” Mei Makk said. “After receiving training from NGOs and the government about the democratic process, they grew fond of democratic systems like the American and French.”
But those who suffered at the hands of the brutal Pol Pot regime will have trouble believing Mei Makk’s claims, said Vann Nath, the painter and survivor of the Tuol Sleng prison and torture chamber. “I don’t think the current environment can change [former Khmer Rouge],” Vann Nath said Thursday. “I personally suffered bitterly from the Khmer Rouge regime and I can never accept them.”
Former Khmer Rouge ought to respect the rights they now enjoy—rights they never granted, or abused flagrantly, when they were in power, said Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
In particular, he said, they should obey their civic duty to testify before the potential tribunal for former top Khmer Rouge leaders. “They are now doing their jobs as Cambodian citizens by voting, so they must also do their jobs when the court invites them for questioning,” he said.