Opposition leader Sam Rainsy pushed for quicker trials of jailed Khmer Rouge leaders under a hybrid tribunal, as he marked the 33rd anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh Thursday.
“We must realize the trial of former Khmer Rouge as soon as possible,” Sam Rainsy said at a Buddhist ceremony to mark the day at Choeung Ek, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. “We must not hang around.”
To commemorate the day when the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh and began emptying Cambodia’s cities, monks chanted before a stupa of skulls, the remains of only some of the nearly 2 million who died under the disastrous policies of the regime.
Sam Rainsy said he was concerned that the five leaders now in custody—Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith, Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Kaing Kek Iev—might die of “natural causes” before they see trial.
“There is no reason there has been no trial until now,” Sam Rainsy said. “I would like to call, on the behalf of 14 million Cambodians, on the international community not to drag on” the trial.
“The former Khmer Rouge leaders must be judged as soon as possible for the sake of justice for the victims,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 people joined Thursday’s ceremony, most of them victims somehow of the Khmer Rouge who said they feel impatient waiting for justice.
“Seven members of my family were killed,” said Men Thol, a former prisoner of Khmer Rouge cadre in Kandal province. “I was imprisoned for a year with my feet cuffed. I came here for the first time [today] to demand a speedy trial.”
After a bumpy start, the tribunal enacted the arrests of the five leaders in late 2007, and officials say they expect initial hearings in the first half of this year, nearly 30 years after the ousting of the Khmer Rouge by Vietnamese forces.
You Bunleng, Cambodia’s investigating judge, said the tribunal wants to act quickly, “faster than Sam Rainsy has urged.”
However, she said, “the court has a full process to ensure complete justice and to ensure an international standard.”