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Khmer Rouge Survivors Demand More Reparations

In this file photo, visitors walk by the mass grave of the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime next to a memorial stupa filled with victims' skulls at the Choeung Ek killing field in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.

Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime appealed for clarity in their compensation claims and complained about a general lack of awareness of legal procedures at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Several survivors gathered on Friday at a restaurant in Phnom Penh, including Sem Hoeun, 53, who was forced by the regime to be a porter, carrying fertilizer made from the remains of the dead to feed the agrarian revolution.

She said she still lives with the pain and suffering of those days, and called on the country’s current leadership not to treat it people “brutally and badly”.

Hoeun added that she wanted compensation but was unsure of how to make a request.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. So far only the former head of the notorious S-21 security center, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, has been sentenced for crimes against humanity, while the regime’s second-in-command Nuon Chea and its head of state, Khieu Samphan, are still on trial.

Kranh Tony, a representative of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) who helps oversee reparations, without elaborating, said the court was continuing to seek redress for survivors through 17 projects.

Neth Pheaktra, an ECCC spokesman, said the court was seeking more funding for reparations projects, adding that if and when more funding came through it would be brought “to the trial chamber, meaning when [it] sees that there is the possibility to implement [more reparations], the compensation will be provided.”

Sos Tonh, 54, called for a system of “collective compensation” that could see money spent on community projects.

“I don’t know what I want because we hear the words ‘compensation and compensation,’ but how could they offer us compensation. Now, with this gathering, I mean I want a religious hall or school for the next generation of Cambodian kids,” he said.

He added that the Khmer Rouge beat and killed his father and three siblings in the 1970s.