Cal State Long Beach professor leading campaign to continue Khmer Rouge trials.
By Greg Mellen, Staff Writer
Long Beach Press Telegram (California, USA)
Those who want to petition the ECCC to continue investigate can do so online at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/cambodiansurvivorsseekjustice/
LONG BEACH — The four older Cambodian women walked along Anaheim Street and greeted passersby and talked with a sense of purpose to shop owners.
Refugee women survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, are not typically known for such forthright and outward displays, but here they were united and strong.
The four women, accompanied by local activist and Cal State Long Beach professor
Leakhena Nou, were out to rally support among the immigrant community and pass out petitions to urge a tribunal court in their home country to press forward with prosecutions of alleged perpetrators of atrocities.
The effort by the women, whose names are being withheld for their protection, comes in the wake of growing indications that the United Nations-backed court will close down after its upcoming trial slated to begin in late June.
While two cases are pending with five unnamed defendants, progress has
stalled in the face of Cambodian government opposition.
But that hasn’t stopped the U.S. women from insisting on being heard.
“These women embodied the quest for justice,” Nou said. “They know the court may reject them but they wanted to to fight the fight, not only for a symbolic purpose but for future generations.”
Nou said several of the women, who are in their 60 s and 70 s, told her they were willing to continue to the ends of their lives.
To date they have gathered 763 signatures of supporters urging the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to continue investigating leaders in the genocide that left about 2 million dead between 1975 and 1979.
The attempt to prosecute senior leaders believed to be most responsible for the deaths has been a process that has consistently been hampered by allegations of corruption, government interference, lack of funds and bickering through the years.
Many leaders of the Khmer Rouge, including its leader Pol Pot, have died. More are in failing health.
In the ECCCcourt’s first case, Kaing Geuk Eav, or Duch, was found guilty of a number of crimes.
In the second case, which is about to get under way, four defendants face charges.
Court observers were stunned recently when judges abruptly closed investigation of the third case, despite what one prosecutor said was sufficient information.
Worse for survivors and victims, who had been allowed to petition to be plaintiffs in the first two cases, the abrupt halt left them with little time to apply to be part of the case.
Nou, whose Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia has been the foremost organization in registering plaintiffs from the refugee community, and her associates were able to get five plaintiff applications in before the deadline.
Judges have not responded to requests to extend the deadline for complainants to file.
Despite the seeming indifference by the court, Nou says interest in the diaspora is strong and there remains a thirst for justice against believed perpetrators.
“I would say 99.9 percent of the people we approached signed,” Nou said of the petitions she and the women circulated.
Nou said the process of going into the Cambodian community and rallying the people seems to have changed the women.
“They were energized by the fight for justice,” Nou said. “They said it was among the happiest days of their lives.”