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Ex Top Khmer Rouge Leader Left Home As Prosecutors Begin Their Investigation

Former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan, left his home in Pailin city in the middle of the night, alleges his daughter Tuesday.

This development happens one day after the Khmer Rouge Tribunal prosecutors start their investigations using evidence documents on the former Khmer Rouge leaders' genocide and crimes against humanity.

The two-week vacation is in Battambang province, Khieu Samphan's daughter, Khieu Ratana told VOA that her parents left for Battambang, and that it is normal for people to visit their friends when invited.

Khieu Samphan's wife says that she and her husband went to Anlong Veng to visit their children. Anlong Veng and Pailin city are former Khmer Rouge leaders' strongholds.

Their neighbors say that the couple will be away from 2-3 months.

Opposition Sam Rainsy party (SRP) and NGO officials are not surprised by this departure, because Khieu Samphan has the right to travel since he is only a suspect.

SRP legislator Keo Remy says that Khieu Samphan is free to travel because the court has not found him guilty yet. He says that Khieu Samphan's departure for Battambang happens when the Khmer Rouge Tribunal's proceedureis under way, but the Constitution says that anyone is free unless proven guilty. He says that most likely, Khieu Samphan will not be able to leave the country.

NGO Licadho director, Pung Chhiv Kek says that his travelling inside the country is not a problem, unless he left the country for abroad.

Khieu Samphan lives in Pailin since 1999 with number two former leader Nuon Chea and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary, after surrendering to the government.

Khieu Samphan and other former Khmer Rouge leaders will be tried for crimes against humanity and genocide committed during Democratic Kampuchea regime from 1975-1979 resulting in the death of one million 700,000 people, by killing, starvation, and disease.

The Khmer Rouge Tribunal officials say that the trial is expected to begin in 2007 with $56 million 300,000 budget for 3 years.

The killing field architect Pol Pot died in 1998 and Minister of Health Chuon Choeun died last week of old age.

Ta Mok and Duch are being held, awaiting trial. Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea, and Ieng Sary are living freely in Northwestern Cambodia.