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Ieng Sary’s Death Worries Khmer Rouge Victims

Cambodia-American lawyer Seng Theary, pictured here, at the Khmer Rouge tribunal court, ECCC.
Cambodia-American lawyer Seng Theary, pictured here, at the Khmer Rouge tribunal court, ECCC.

WASHINGTON DC - The death last month of former Khmer Rouge co-founder Ieng Sary, in the midst of an atrocity crimes trial, has victims of the regime worried they will not see justice done.

The UN-backed tribunal is trying just two leaders—Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—for atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge, but both are aging, and the trial process has been too slow for many victims.

“All the people are watching to see whether the court can judge the Khmer Rouge leaders, who killed millions of people,” Sum Rithy, who is participating as a civil party at the court, told “Hello VOA” Thursday. “If not, there is no justice for the Cambodian people in the future, and Cambodians all over the country will be hopeless on any laws.”

The court, which stood up in 2006, has so far only convicted on Khmer Rouge prison chief, Kaing Kek Iev, or Duch, for his role in supervising the infamous torture center of Tuol Sleng.

Former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith was released to house arrest last year, after she was found mentally unfit to stand trial. The fate of two more cases, which would require five more indictments, remains in doubt.

That leaves only Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologue, and Khieu Samphan, its former head of state, facing charges at the court. Their trial is ongoing, but there are still worries the court won’t be able to fully prosecute the case.

Seng Theary, a former civil party complainant who withdrew from the process, told “Hello VOA” she had lost faith in the court.

Those who want the truth about the regime should seek information elsewhere, she said. “The tribunal is only an image, with money to spend, but it’s not effective.”

Sum Rithy said he wants the two leaders now on trial to confess. “This would be justice for me,” he said. “If neither of them speak out, it is not the truth.”