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Memorial Built for Prisoners Executed at Pagoda

Nearly 100 villagers gathered together on the outskirts of Phnom Penh Wednesday, to place the bones of Khmer Rouge victims at a pagoda memorial not far from the UN-backed tribunal.

The villagers had a Buddhist ritual performed at the Wat Sgnoun Pich pagoda, where they placed the remains of some 60 people to represent the more than 1,000 who were filled here under the Khmer Rouge.

The pagoda had been a Khmer Rouge prison site, holding hundreds of people at a time.

“My sister and my brother-in-law, plus three children, were killed here,” said Men Kan, a 68-year-old resident here. He set bones on a pedestal at the new memorial, along with five other men under the watch of seven monks.

“I’m holding these bones, and I don’t even know if they are my sister’s, and it makes me sob,” he said.

Suon Sethy, deputy director general at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, initiated the construction of the memorial.

“It is not only to respect the souls of the victims, but it will also be evidence” of Khmer Rouge crimes, he said at the ceremony.

More than 1,500 people were ultimately held at the pagoda and killed at various sites on the pagoda grounds, said Sar Meng, a high school administrator and organizer of the memorial. The dead were put in mass graves of between 150 and 500 people, he said.

Also present was Andrew Cayley, the international prosecutor for the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

“Here we see the victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, and this suddenly makes me feel that I want to redouble my efforts in what I’m doing at the court,” he said.

The tribunal is currently building a case against at least four more jailed leaders of the regime—Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith—with a trial for atrocity crimes, including genocide, expected next year.

This memorial was one of more than a hundred that have been going up around villages in Cambodia, where authorities and residents have held onto the bones of the victims, Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Wednesday.