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On Anniversary of Khmer Rouge Takeover, a Plea for Trials

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy called on the international community to pressure the government on a trial of Khmer Rouge leaders, during a ceremony to commemorate April 17, 1975, the day the Khmer Rouge overtook Phnom Penh.

"If it isn't one obstacle, it's another," Sam Rainsy said at a ceremony at the Cheung Ek "killing fields," where the bodies of tortured and executed Cambodians were buried in piles during the Khmer Rouge.

Government officials "want the Khmer Rouge leaders to die one by one" before facing justice, he said.

The international community needs to put more pressure on the government "so the tribunal will not stall," he said.

The tribunal for Khmer Rouge leaders has become mired in bickering over internal rules and other procedures, most recently the refusal of the Cambodian Bar Association to lower its required fees for foreign-lawyer participation in the trials. Their position caused UN-appointed judges for the tribunal to cancel a meeting at the end of this month that could have led to the beginning of trials.

Observers warn that the tribunal is fast approaching collapse.

On April 17, 1975, guerrillas known as the Red Khmers, or Khmer Rouge, marched through the streets of Phnom Penh, having defeated the regime of President Lon Nol and his US allies.

The Khmer Rouge rounded up the city's residents and organized them to be marched out of the city, to begin work on "Year Zero," the start of ultra-Maoist agrarian policies that would lead to one of the worst genocides of the 20th Century.