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UN, Cambodian Authorities Launch Probe of Khmer Rouge Atrocities

Cambodian and United Nations prosecutors have begun gathering evidence to try former leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime that is blamed for the deaths of nearly two million people.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath said two prosecutors officially began work today (Monday) in Phnom Penh.

International prosecutor Robert Petit of Canada says it could take months to issue any indictments. The tribunal aims to bring to justice the few surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime, nearly three decades after the end (in 1979) of the ultra-Maoists' failed campaign to abolish modern society and re-make Cambodia as an agrarian utopia.

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk says he opposes the U.N.-backed tribunal because it will try only a handful of Khmer Rouge leaders, and ignore many others responsible the country's genocide.

The 83-year-old former monarch contends thousands of former Khmer Rouge killers are still at large. He says they were responsible for "indescribable" suffering the Cambodian people endured during the years (1975-79) the ultra-Maoists were in power.

In a message displayed on his website, Sihanouk says the millions of dollars reserved for the trial would be better spent on services for impoverished Cambodians.