More than 500 people gathered at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial Thursday for the SRP’s annual commemoration of the fall of Phnom Penh to Khmer Rouge forces on April 17, 1975.
SRP President Sam Rainsy used the occasion to denounce government officials for their alleged Khmer Rouge ties.
“Some political party’s leaders were former Khmer Rouge leaders. They don’t want the former Khmer Rouge to be prosecuted,” Sam Rainsy told the crowd.
“Those who have government positions, they are afraid that former Khmer Rouge leaders will speak the truth during the trial, and then they will be implicated,” he said.
However, in his speech, Rainsy stopped short of naming names.
“It does not mean that I am afraid of a lawsuit. Those who committed mistakes must realize it themselves,” he said in a phone interview after the ceremony.
CPP leaders Thursday denied government figures were involved in any crimes under the Khmer Rouge, emphasizing instead their commitment to liberating the country from Pol Pot’s regime and furthering the prosecution of Khmer Rouge war criminals.
“They were former Khmer Rouge, but they liberated the country,” said CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Senate and CPP President Chea Sim, and National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
“When they realized the bad leadership, they liberated the country to free it from Pol Pot’s killing,” Cheam Yeap added.
CPP Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel said top Khmer Rouge leaders had already been prosecuted at a 1979 People’s Court, and that the CPP remained committed to holding them legally accountable.
“We have destroyed the whole network of the Khmer Rouge. Samdech [Hun Sen, Cheam Sim and Heng Samrin] are the parents of the people,” Nguon Nhel added.
Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are now awaiting trial at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, the UN-backed tribunal that began work in 2006. The first trial could start this year.
But Prak Chhun, a 72-year-old teacher from Kandal province who attended Thursday’s memorial at Choeung Ek, said he believed some former regime leaders are still untouchable.
“The fact is that former Khmer Rouge cannot be prosecuted because they have power,” he said. “They have bloody hands. The court should prosecute them.”