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Regime Survivor to Victims: Exercise Rights

Tuol Sleng prison survivor Chum Mey on Friday called on living victims of the Khmer Rouge to file further complaints against five former regime leaders now in the custody of the tribunal.

Chum Mey, who was imprisoned at Tuol Sleng until Vietnamese forces pushed the Khmer Rouge out of Phnom Penh in January 1979, said victims must exercise their right to complain, as no such rights existed under Democratic Kampuchea.

"They closed our mouths and our ears, and they banned our eyes from seeing," he told seminar on victim compensation in Phnom Penh Friday. "But now I tell you we have full rights. I need to ask you to file complaints as much as possible to try those five."

Chum Mey, who is 77 now, spoke during a seminar held by the rights group Adhoc to discuss possible reparations for victims following potential trials of the five former leaders: "Brother No. 2" Nuon Chea, nominal president Khieu Samphan, foreign minister Ieng Sary, social affairs minister Ieng Thirith and Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Kek Iev, better known by his revolutionary name, Duch.

"Do not let them go free," said Chum Mey, who himself has filed a complaint to the Khmer Rouge tribunal as a civil party. "If we file many complaints, the evidence will be more solid to prove there was mass killing."

The Victims Unit of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, located behind the Cambodian Red Cross Hospital on Norodom Boulevard, estimates about 1,800 people have so far filed complaints. Not all of them have been accepted by the courts, but more than 60 complaints will be used against Duch, whose case is nearing the trial stage.

Victims still lack access to information on filing complaints, said Hisham Mousar, who monitors the courts for the rights group Adhoc.

The tribunal should have a budget to support victims in the complaint process, he added.

Some people know they can complain, but they don't know where to go, Chum Mey said. Many of them are poor and are more concerned about making a living than making a trip to Phnom Penh to file a complaint.

Chea Sorn, 71, who attended Friday's seminar, said she was among those who want to file but do not know how.

"I alone am still alive; 10 others died," she said, weeping. "I don't know how to file a complaint. I earn money by keeping a parcel of land for one owner. I would rather die and forget all these difficulties."