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Khmer Rouge Denial Law Criticized as Political Tool

In this undated photo provided by Documentation Center of Cambodia, the late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, center, greets Khmer Rouge cadre in Phnom Penh airport, Cambodia.
WASHINGTON DC - Critics of a draft law against the denial of Khmer Rouge crimes say the legislation will do little to promote national healing and instead appears to have been created for political purposes.

The “Law on the Denial of Crimes Committed During the Period of Democratic Kampuchea,” which uses the official name for the Khmer Rouge, is set for National Assembly debate Friday.

But its opponents say it is being drafted at the same time Kem Sokha, a senior opposition official, is being accused by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party of denying crimes committed by the regime at the infamous torture center Tuol Sleng.

Kem Sokha has refuted the allegations against him, saying a purported recording of his remarks on the center has been doctored and is being used to discredit the Cambodia National Rescue Party in the run-up to July’s polls.

“Under these circumstances, having such a law does not totally serve the victims of Democratic Kampuchea,” Latt Ky, a Khmer Rouge tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc, who works with victims of the regime, told VOA Khmer.

The draft the law will do little for victims in the long term, he said.

Other critics say the will do little good at all.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be punished by the law, so this means there is no benefit of having this law,” said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal organization. “With the law saying what it does, who would dare speak out against it?”

He too said the law seemed intended for political attack against Kem Sokha.

“If it’s only for the election, there could be some benefit, as it is against someone like Kem Sokha, who [allegedly] said something that offended the other group,” he said.

Ou Chanrith, a lawmaker for the opposition, said there should be no rush to pass the law. This kind of law should include prohibitions on Khmer Rouge soldiers taking senior positions in government, he added.

Christopher Dearing, a legal adviser for the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which gathers evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities, said education is more important than legal punitive measures.

“It would be in Cambodia’s interest to redirect attention to alternative remedies, such as genocide education, for dealing with individuals who deny, revise or trivialize the Khmer Rouge genocide,” he said.