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Takeo ‘Cooperative’ Will Be Starting Point for Impending Khmer Rouge Trial

In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, Khieu Samphan, left, former Khmer Rouge head of state, and Nuon Chea, right, who was the Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist and No. 2 leader, sit in the court hall before they made closing statements at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, file photo.

The Trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal says it will begin a case against former regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan by focusing on crimes committed at a work cooperative in Takeo province.

The announcement from the court moves it a step closer to the second phase of the trial against the two men, in the court’s most prominent trial to date.

The Trial Chamber issued its decision on the sequence of hearings on Thursday, starting with the Tram Kok cooperative, tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. The date of the first hearing is not set but is expected in October, he said.

Other hearings in the sequence include the regime’s treatment of Buddhists and the Krang Ta Chan security center, where 15,000 people are believed to have been killed, in Tram Kok district, Takeo province.

Kong Sam On, a lawyer for Khieu Samphan, said a better sequence would begin with the “foreign invasion” of Cambodia and a “clear story” of context before going into specific sites. “We want the general issues to be heard first, before the court hears details about responsibilities,” he said.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea have already been given life sentences by the court, for their responsibility in the mass evacuation of Phnom Penh when the regime came to power, but they must also undergo a second and final phase of their trial.

In this phase, they will face charges of genocide and war crimes, in hearings that will cover numerous security centers and work cooperatives, where Khmer Rouge cadre committed atrocity crimes including mass killings, forced marriage, rape and forced labor.

Meanwhile, the court continues to face financial difficulties as it proceeds with the trial of the two men. The government of Chile says it will contribute $10,000 to the Cambodian side of the court, following an appeal from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.