Friday, 18 April 2008

KRouge survivors demand swift trials in Cambodia

Cambodia's opposition party leader Sam Rainsy (L) and Buddhist monks look at a memorial stupa displayed with more than 8,000 skulls of victims of the Khmer Rouge at Choeung Ek, a "Killing Fields" site located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh April 17, 2008. Hundreds of Cambodians, including 99 monks, gathered at the site to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Khmer Rouge reign, which plunged the nation into a radical communist group genocide regime from 1975-1979.REUTERS/Chor Sokunthea (CAMBODIA)

Media Corp News
17 April 2008

CHOEUNG EK, Cambodia - Hundreds of survivors of the Khmer Rouge gathered Thursday at Cambodia's killing fields to demand speedy trials of the regime's leaders on the anniversary of the capital's fall to the ultra-Maoists.

About 70 Buddhist monks blessed victims' skulls on display at the Choeung Ek killing fields outside Phnom Penh, where Khmer Rouge soldiers bludgeoned to death thousands of people during the regime's 1975-1979 reign.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy and about 700 people assembled at the sombre memorial to mark 33 years since Phnom Penh fell to the communist guerrillas, who are believed to be behind the deaths of up to two million people.

"I plead to the United Nations and the international community to push for the trials of Khmer Rouge leaders soon. Otherwise, the Khmer Rouge leaders ... will die without any convictions," Sam Rainsy said.

"We demand the UN-backed court quickly try the Khmer Rouge leaders and render justice to the victims," he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged the courts to deliver "long-overdue" justice for the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.

Frustration has been building as a funding crisis has caused delays in the tribunal, leaving many Cambodians fearful that convictions might come too late.

"I have been waiting for justice for years," said villager Sou Phan, who lost more than 10 relatives under the regime.

"I pray for the souls of the skulls to help make the court try the Khmer Rouge leaders before they die."

Up to two million people died of overwork and starvation or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which abolished religion, property rights, currency and schools.

Millions more were driven from the cities onto vast collective farms as the ultra-Maoist regime sought to create an agrarian utopia.

A joint Cambodia-UN tribunal convened in 2006 after nearly a decade of haggling.

Public trials of the regime's five top surviving leaders, who were recently detained by the court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, are expected to begin later this year.

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