ANLONG VENG - Despite some pressure on the Khmer Rouge tribunal to pursue more cases, former Khmer Rouge cadre in the former stronghold of Anlong Veng say they are uneasy with the prospect of further arrests.
One resident here in the district in Oddar Meanchey province, Um Mek, said he always wanted to see Khmer Rouge leaders held accountable for atrocities committed under their rule.
So, the father of three daughters said recently, bringing the top leaders to trial was the right thing to do. “The Khmer Rouge leaders then did the wrongdoings,” he said. “So they must now be brought to trial.”
He said he agrees with the ongoing atrocity crimes trial of Nuon Chea, the regime’s ideologue; Khieu Samphan, its head of state; and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister. But like many here in this remote part of northern Cambodia, Um Mek said he is uncomfortable with further prosecutions.
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The court’s investigating judges have two more cases before them that would require five more arrests and indictments. Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government officials oppose these cases going forward, despite pressure from some international jurists at the UN-backed court and victims groups who want to see the tribunal bring as many former leaders to trial as possible.
Yim Phanna, the governor of Anlong Veng, an area once under the control of “the Butche” Ta Mok, said some former cadre here had committed wrongdoings, but they were under orders. They agreed to government amnesty in 1999, but some still fear they could be prosecuted by a court of expanded scope.
Further prosecutions, Yim Phanna said, “will cause chaos, doubt, mistrust and so on, which is contrary to the principles of the government. And if that really happens, it will cause worry among those former cadre and thus it won’t bring harmony. It would just make the story longer.”
Among the five suspects for further cases is Im Chaem, who prosecutors say headed a security center in nearby Banteay Meanchey province where an estimated 40,000 people died. In an interview with VOA Khmer, she denied committing atrocity crimes and said she will not go to court.
“I’ll defend my right to life,” she said. “I won’t let anyone pressure me to accept any mistakes or [say] I am guilty and put me in jail.”
Tribunal officials, meanwhile, are on a campaign to ease the concerns of former cadre here. Tribunal spokesman Lars Olsen said the court will not pursue any new cases beyond Nos. 003 and 004—the two cases that would require five more indictments.
“That means that the prosecution will not start any investigations into other people than the persons involved in these four cases,” he said.