Before departing for China after a brief trip to Cambodia, US Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal, a court he helped negotiate.
“Years ago, as a member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I traveled here several times in the 1990s to try to help find a way to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable for the terrible events of the killing fields where nearly two million people were killed,” Kerry told reporters before his departure.
“I worked with Prime Minister Hun Sen and the UN to help create a structure that became the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia,” he said. “And we were able to break a gridlock between the government and the UN that resulted in accountability for the crimes of the Pol Pot era.”
Not everyone has been held accountable before the court, Kerry said, including Pol Pot, who died before it came into being. “But there are those in prison today as a result of its continued work, and accountability still continues,” he said.
Still, many victims of the regime have been disappointed by the court, with only one former Khmer Rouge cadre, Kaing Kek Iev, fully prosecuted, and two former top leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, still undergoing a trial.
“I’m not happy with this Khmer Rouge court,” said Bou Meng, who survived Kaing Kek Iev’s notorious Tuol Sleng detention center, but who lost his wife and children to the Khmer Rouge. “People have died. I’m very worried that the court works too slowly. It’s like they’re pulling bamboo against the water current.”