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Many Want Confessions from Khmer Rouge Leaders on Trial

This photo was taken about two years ago. This place used to be a high school which was taken over by Pol Pot's security force and turned into a prison known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). It soon became the largest such center of detention and torture in the country. Over 17,000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who died during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds.

Ongoing research shows that a high number of Cambodians would like to see former Khmer Rouge leaders apologize for their crimes and reveal truths behind the secretive regime.

Ly Sok Kheang, a researcher at the Documentation Center of Cambodia, says interviews with many everyday Cambodians shows a desire to hear confessions from two former leaders, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, currently on trial at the UN-backed tribunal.

“Unfortunately, they have not heard those,” he told “Hello VOA.” “So they want more research to fill up the missing points that they have not heard in the court.”

As head of a project called Witnessing Justice, he has interviewed many Cambodians across the country since 2006, when the tribunal began operation. People always ask him “who was behind” the Khmer Rouge, he said.

“These are the words I consistently hear,” he said. “But the jurisdiction of the court was just to try two kinds of people—the top leaders and those ‘most responsible’ persons. So Vietnam, China and others are not in it.”

The limited tribunal process many not appease everyone, he said, because it only examines certain crime sites, and not all of them. But Cambodians “everywhere” want to ensure no such regime will return, he said.

“So the main goal is that we want healing and reconciliation in our society, which was split by conflict and the genocide,” he said. “Reconciliation needs to see the truth.”