Tribunal Suspects Say They Won’t Cooperate With Court
File photo of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, court officers of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal are seen through windows during a hearing of former Khmer Rouge top leaders in Phnom Penh, file photo.
ODDAR MEANCHEY, CAMBODIA —Former Khmer Rouge leaders who are suspects in two cases before the UN-backed tribunal remain defiant, refusing to appear at the court as summoned.In interviews with VOA Khmer, three suspects, Meas Muth, Ta An and Im Chaem, denied the atrocity crimes charges made against them. A fourth, Yim Tith, declined to be interviewed.
All suspects were named by an international judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in cases 003 and 004, though they have never been arrested by Cambodian authorities nor formally indicted.
That means the court has only successfully tried one suspect since 2006, the former supervisor of Tuol Sleng prison, Kaing Kek Iev. Two more suspects, senior leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, are currently in the second and final stage of their trial at the court.
The remaining suspects say they will not cooperate with the court, casting doubt on whether they will ever be tried.
“I absolutely do not need to fight [the court],” told VOA Khmer recently at her home in Oddar Meanchey province. “I have built myself forward, through the ways of Buddhism.”
Im Chaem, the former Khmer Rouge secretary of Preah Net Preah district, Northwest Zone, is accused of “murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, persecution on political grounds, and other inhumane acts” at a security center and worksite.
She denied any wrongdoing under the Khmer Rouge. “If I didn’t do things wrong, how can they arrest me?” she said. “It would be a human rights violation.”
When the international investigating judge, Mark Harmon, arrived at her house to issue his summons, she told him to leave and talk to her lawyer, she said. “I said only three words. He asked me to put the thumbprint. How can I put the thumbprint? I have nothing to put the thumbprint, and then I won’t go to the court.”
You have my deepest appreciation and respect for your invaluable compilations and your own articles of all the painful memories relived and told by those who can not forget and forgive. I read them all with the vivid images of my own parents and blind grand-mother among the millions who believed in the lies of the Khmer Rouge and left the city as they were told. I did not live with the Khmer Rouge regime but as a Khmer woman, the suffering of not saying goodbye to my beloved parents and to my grand-mother with whom I shared my adolescent years have been with me for the past 40 years.
When my husband and I returned to Phnom Penh with our two toddlers in 1989, we saw uncovered mass graves everywhere. The bones were almost fresh. Our daughters learned the painful truth of genocide. Now all these mass graves are covered up and the bones have desappeared except in some places such as in Cheung Ek, the genocide museum or at Ou Doung.
I think the mass graves and the bones should have been kept untouched. I think that the uncovered mass graves could have been a way for our people to learn the truth, in particular our youths. A comprehensive and engaging reconciliation process parrallel with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal would be more significant, a healing process, teaching us to reject violence. Unfortunately, the violence is still part of us. Every day men, women, teenagers and even children committ the most hineous act of violence such as gang killings with samurai swords, decapitating in cases of domestic violence and rape. That is not healing.
It is for this reason that i think we should embark with Lauk Prathean Sam Rainsy and Mr. Hun Sen in this new culture of dialogue. They are willing to put aside their personal differences and even to hold themselves respondible to the nation should their political and personal commitment fail. It is the moment our people and our beloved nation have waited for all these 40 years.
All we are saying is give peace a chance.
This begins with each and everyone of us.
Mu Sochua, MP
Sent from my iPad
Dear Neak Bong MP Sochua;
I am greatly complimented by partnering healing processes through telling my story and hearing your story: I do believe in “story telling” to accumulate fresh first hand information and to heal Khmer’s mental illness and PTSD.
First, the “Culture of Dialogue” is an opened door to access to friendship, understanding each other, and collaborating with one another. There are some theorists have theorized that to stop Khmer painful past or to break the silence of Khmer inner suffering, is to stop repeating the old haunting stories or bury them deeply under the ground. But I have disagreed with this “burying” theory because in general Cambodian victims have learnt to Forgive, but they could not Forget and experience difficulty in moving Forwards. The “Culture of Dialogue” adopted by HE Sam Rainsy with an embrace supported by his counterpart PM Hun Sen, is a new modernized and pragmatic tool to remedy Cambodian suffering and to instill long term development of Cambodia.
Without verbalizing and having honest communication, culture of dialogue would not exist; in the meantime, without “story telling” or “revealing” the bitter past, the healing processes would not be achieved.
Second, my tears dropped down unconsciously while reading and hearing those painful stories. I am fully affected by social conscience of those Cambodian brothers and sisters in which no one is free of this tumultuous past. It has helped me to develop a step of self-effort and compassion towards them all as well as the ability to discover more on Cambodian suffering and to help them all at my utmost capacity.
This personal embodiment of mine has encouraged me to think of many Cambodian younger children to develop positively for the responsibility of their future as they have heard more “story telling” from their parents, schools, and siblings etc. But it might be not always like that like what you said it has also produced negativity and irresponsibility among youths who visibly have committed hideous act of violence in society if Cambodia has no proper policy to handle with it or culture of dialogue doesn’t take place in this land.
This 40 years, it is my first time to recall back my past turbulence and my family. I was born at an architectural still house in the heart of Siem Reap in 1976, one year after the ascending to power of the Khmer Rouge. I am recalled by mother since I was very young on many things that I am having difficulty to remember. I have remembered clearly only my birthday I was frequently asked to recite it in Khmer traditional lunar calendar. My father passed away since I was in the womb. I have never seen the face of my father even though through the photo. Mother told that all family pictures and photos were totally destroyed to avoid catching up as enemy and facing death penalty. My mother passed away when I was 11 years old. The bitter story has later little been told by my survival two older sisters. All my four siblings were killed during the regime. I have no clue tills today that how could I pen about them or figure out about their face accurately?
During the Khmer Rouge period, I have no memory at all except some flashing image occurring within my head on how bad I was crying inside the Buddhist worshiping hall to ask for mom and to scavenge for food to eat. But I remembered the starvation and famine during the presence of Vietnamese solders patrolling surround my house in Phum Dang-het, Srok Chi Kraeng. I think during 1979 to 1980, there was famine throughout the country.
Brief memory recalling by Sophoan Seng
In commemoration of 40 years when the Khmer Rouge came to power to lead a country of extremism and jungle leadership.
Botta, the high commissioner for youth and sports, stands at the end of a row of suited men, arms behind his back, staring defiantly into the camera. Lon Nol, the mystic “Marshal” that led the ill-fated and highly corrupt republic, stands in the middle, leaning on his cane but still towering over the rest.
“Most of them were killed by the Khmer Rouge,” Botta, now 72 and an opposition MP, says.
It has been exactly forty years since the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975.
The stories I have heard since I was a young child continue haunt me, and the bits and pieces of the puzzle never quite formed a solid picture of what really happened. Forty years later, the story of my family’s experience was still a mystery to me. While other stories from survivors were clear in my mind, I never heard the entire story from my parents, until now. Perhaps it was my frequent visits home, with cohorts of inquisitive graduate students that prompted me to ask, in detail, the story I had wanted to hear. It was never a question that surfaced in my mind as one that should be asked. As a child of genocide survivors, it was something I feared, something I ignored. Yet, the more students I brought to Cambodia, the more their questions made me realize that the genocide was something that needed to be told. My family’s story was not something to be ignored, but rather something to be acknowledged, both for the survivors themselves and for their children. And so begins the story of one family, who much like the rest of the Khmer people, faced tragedy and immeasurable sorrow, and somehow found a way to survive.
Sophal Ear, SEARAC Board Member, Occidental College Professor of Diplomacy & World Affairs, and TED Fellow, tells the compelling story of his family’s escape from Cambodia under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. He recounts his mother’s cunning and determination to save her children in his 2009 TED Talk, “Escaping the Khmer Rouge.” His mother passed away six months later.
On April 17, 1975 — 40 years ago today — life as Ly knew it was shattered when her hometown, the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, fell to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.
Ly, then 13, was separated from her mother and two of her sisters who, along with virtually the entire population of Phnom Penh — about two million people — were sent on a forced march into the countryside to work.
Ly never saw them again, nor learned what happened to them. But about 20,000 people died from execution, starvation or exhaustion during this exodus at gunpoint, according to war crimes prosecutors; the others were subjected to slave labor in rural camps once they reached their destination, where many met similar fates.
“Story Telling by Ly and her unexpected family reunion” by CNN
“The children’s arrival was not all smooth and happy,” recalls Gaffar Peang-Meth, who became the point man for verifying many of their legal status. Some news media reports suggested that the children were not all orphans and openly questioned why they had been brought to the U.S. Gaffar Peang-Meth responded that there was no authority in Phnom Penh to answer such allegations.
Amid the mounting concern, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ordered a temporary halt to the babylifts on April 16, just one day before the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh. Then deputy commissioner of the INS, James Green, told the Washington Post that the agency would “launch a full investigation to determine what these children’s backgrounds are and how they got into the United States.”
TIME recalled the halting of adopting orphanages few days before KR seized Phnom Penh by TIME Magazine
A few hundred people, including monks and elderly regime survivors, gathered early Friday at Choeung Ek, the most notorious of the regime’s “killing fields” on the capital’s outskirts, burning incense and saying Buddhist prayers at a memorial stupa housing the skulls and bones of victims.
Cambodia’s opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, led prayers at the former killing fields.
He reminded Cambodians of the importance of the ongoing trials of surviving Khmer Rouge leaders.
“It is why every year we remind the people in power to support the Khmer Rouge tribunal,” he said.
“To proceed, and not to hinder in any way, the judicial proceedings that is intended to bring justice to the Khmer people.”
“CNRP led by HE Sam Rainsy commemorate and dedicate merits to those victims at Choeung Ek” by ABC Australia
Friday marks 40 years since the Khmer Rouge first marched into Phnom Penh. Over the following 44 months in the region of 2 million people from a population of just over 8 million died – killed, starved or struck down by disease – as Pol Pot’s brutal regime attempted to style Cambodia into a classless, agrarian society.
Cambodia is still struggling to deal with its history, where personal memory is politicised and the spectre of the Khmer Rouge is ever-present but often wilfully ignored. Even the most basic term remains contentious: can a regime be described as genocidal when so much of the killing of Khmers was done by Khmers?
Nhem En, a survivor of sorts from that dark time, is an unwelcome reminder of a knot of dilemmas that Cambodia is only starting to untangle – who to blame; how to forgive; and how to understand a regime that implicated such large swaths of the population in seemingly unfathomable cruelty.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan Sentenced to Life Imprisonment for Crimes Against Humanity
Today, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) found Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan guilty of crimes against humanity committed between 17 April 1975 and December 1977 and sentenced them to life imprisonment.
Nuon Chea was the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) and a member of both the CPK Central and Standing Committees. Nuon Chea, with Pol Pot, exercised the ultimate decision-making power of the Party. Nuon Chea officially exercised the role of Acting Prime Minister of DK on several occasions from September 1976 up until 1977 when Pol Pot resumed his duties. Due to his seniority within the CPK leadership, Nuon Chea enjoyed oversight of all Party activities extending beyond the roles and responsibilities formally entrusted to him during the DK period. Khieu Samphan became a candidate member of the CPK Central Committee in 1971 and a full-rights member in 1976. He was one of two members of Office 870 which oversaw the implementation of the decisions of the CPK Standing Committee. As a member of Office 870 he was responsible for commerce and played an important role in matters of economics and foreign trade in the Democratic Kampuchea (DK). In April 1976, Khieu Samphan was appointed President of the State Presidium. While this was a largely symbolic role with no executive power, he had the confidence and trust of the other members of the Party Centre and he participated in meetings of the Central and Standing Committees.
The Trial Chamber found that, together with members of the Standing and Central Committees, government ministers and Zone secretaries, both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan participated in a joint criminal enterprise to achieve the common purpose of implementing a rapid socialist revolution through a ‘great leap forward’ by whatever means necessary. The Chamber found that this common purpose was implemented through, amongst other means, policies to forcibly displace people from cities and towns and between rural areas. As a result, during the first phase of the movement of the population at least two million people were forcibly transferred from Phnom Penh in April 1975 by Khmer Rouge soldiers under false pretexts and threats, often at gunpoint, with almost no prior warning and in terrifying and violent circumstances. At the time of its expulsion, the population of Phnom Penh was severely weakened by the experience of a long siege characterised by food shortages. In this weakened condition, the population was forced to march to rural areas during the hottest time of the year and without adequate food, water, medical care, accommodation or transportation. Without exception, the entire population of Phnom Penh was evacuated, including monks, the old and the young, the sick and injured from the city’s hospitals, pregnant women and those who had recently given birth. There were numerous instances of Khmer Rouge soldiers shooting and killing civilians during the course of the evacuation, while many others died of exhaustion, malnutrition or disease.
During the second phase of the movement of the population, between September 1975 and December 1977, at least 330,000 to 430,000 people were forcibly displaced from various locations throughout Cambodia. Most people were ordered to leave their locations and transferred under armed guard. Those who refused transfer or attempted escape were arrested, detained or transferred in a further round of movements. People were transported by different means, including truck, boat, ox cart and on foot. People were constantly monitored, had no water and insufficient food, and were not allowed to carry any belongings. Those transported by truck were guarded by armed Khmer Rouge soldiers, who shot at those who tried to escape. Due to exhaustion, starvation or illness, some people died.
The Trial Chamber also found that Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan implemented the common purpose through a policy to target former Khmer Republic officials. As a result of this policy at least 250 Lon Nol officials who had been transported from Pursat to Tuol Po Chrey were executed immediately after 17 April 1975.
Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were, through their participation in the joint criminal enterprise, found to have committed the crimes against humanity of murder, political persecution and other inhumane acts (comprising forced transfers and attacks against human dignity) during movement of population (phase one); political persecution and other inhumane acts (comprising forced transfers and attacks against human dignity) during movement of population (phase two); and murder and extermination through executions of Khmer Republic officials at Tuol Po Chrey. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were also found to have planned, instigated and aided and abetted the crimes of extermination (during movement of population (phases one and two)), other inhumane acts (comprising enforced disappearances) (during movement of population (phase two)) and political persecution (at Tuol Po Chrey). Additionally, Nuon Chea was found to have ordered these crimes.