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Khmer Rouge Survivor Urges Swift Trial for Two Aging Leaders

Sum Rithy, 62, is a leader among the survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, in his home, on December 9, 2015. (Photo: Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

Sum Rithy was imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge, but he survived because he knew how to repair bicycles.

Sum Rithy, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, says the UN-backed tribunal must speed up the trial of two aging regime leaders.

Sum Rithy, 62, is a leader among those survivors of the Khmer Rouge who have pushed for a complete tribunal process, which has so far only tried one defendant.

The court is in the midst of a trial for former leaders Nuon Chea, 89, and Khieu Samphan, 84, the only two so far remaining at the court. But Sum Rithy says he fears they will not survive to see the end of the process.

Justice should have been served by now, to demonstrate that impunity will not be tolerated, he said in a video interview from his home.

“Today, what the court is doing causes fearfulness that it will not have a verdict issued and that someone’s death would not bring justice for the victims and myself,” he said.

Delays and impunity could encourage a new generation to commit atrocities, he said.

“I’ve noticed that in Cambodian society now, just like with the Khmer Rouge, the killers of millions of people are free, which is called impunity,” he said. “The next generation will take the example of the old generation, thinking that the old generation, which killed millions of people, is free, ‘So why can’t I?’”

Sum Rithy was imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge, but he survived because he knew how to repair bicycles. Even so, he was often beaten and sometimes tortured, and forced to do labor.

He and other Khmer Rouge survivors now worry whether the court will complete its work and how many cases it might prosecute, said Latt Ky, a tribunal monitor for the rights group Adhoc.

Civil party complainants are not just looking for a guilty verdict and life sentence, Latt Ky said. “They need justice and they need answers, real and legitimate answers, surrounding why the Khmer Rouge killed people so fiercely, why victims became victims, and why they don’t know the truth.”