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Ambassador Mussemeli: "The victims of the genocide deserve justice"

U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, Joseph A. Mussomeli, expresses concerns Tuesday that the former Khmer Rouge leaders might die and Cambodia would lose as a result, and pushes the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to speed up the process of bringing those leaders to justice.

Ambassador Mussomeli says "the killers are growing old. In another decade they will likely all have died quiet, peaceful deaths."

In a remark to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal tour participants, Ambassador Joseph A. Mussomeli says that the time has come to give justice to the victims of the Democratic Kampuchea regime's killing fields. He says that if these people die, they will not be able to tell what has happened in that regime.

The US Ambassador’s comments came after former Khmer Rouge commander, Ta Mok died last Friday.

Other former Khmer Rouge leaders are in their 70’s and 80’s.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath calls Mr. Mussomeli's prediction about the living Khmer Rouge leaders' death a punishment before a person dies. He says that the tribunal process is right on track.

Sambath says the tribunal has to have international standards, and that because the Khmer Rouge atrocities took place 30 years ago, the prosecutors need a lot of time to do their investigations right.

Opposition Sam Rainsy party legislator Keo Remy puts the blame on the Cambodian and international jurists, saying they do not have the intention to work to try the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

The opposition lawmaker wonders why they still want to spend one to two months before they can start working. In his words, they can charge those leaders starting from now on while still doing their investigations.

More than 500 communal council representatives from 12 cities and provinces visit the court room. The Khmer Rouge court room officials told the participants that the International court will only try former high ranking Khmer Rouge officials, and those highly responsible for the actions, and not mention those countries allegedly involved with this regime.

Mr. Tem Chhan, the communal chief of Santuk town, Kampong Thom province alleges that his siblings were killed in the Khmer Rouge regime. He tells VOA that he will be happy to serve as a witness should the court summon him. He says that the people like himself would like to see lower-level officials who killed be prosecuted too, but the law will not allow that.

The Khmer Rouge leaders are blamed for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from 1975-1979 by executions, starvation, diseases, and forced labor.

No former Khmer Rouge leader has been tried yet. Top former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea are living freely in Cambodia. Only notorious Tuol Sleng prison's director, Duch, is detained now, awaiting trial