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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anger, disillusionment towards war crimes court erupts at forum

Anger, disillusionment towards war crimes court erupts at forum

Participants gathered to discuss efforts to try former Khmer Rouge leaders say Cambodia's UN-backed tribunal is not serious about delays

AWAITING JUSTICE

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are currently in the custody of Cambodia's war crimes tribunal, but only one so far, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, is scheduled to stand trial. The prosecution is expected to open sometime next year, but no date is given.

FEELINGS of hopelessness and a sense of mistrust came to the fore Thursday at a forum on justice and reconciliation at which participants said Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal was failing to explain what it was taking so long to bring former regime leaders to justice.

The conference, run by the Center for Social Development and featuring a panel discussion by officials and monitors from the war crimes court, exposed increasing disillusionment with the tribunal, which remains plagued by budget woes and allegations of corruption.

"A significant number of participants expressed growing disillusionment with the ECCC because of delays and a lack of information about what the court personnel are doing," Heather Ryan, tribunal monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative and a participant on the panel, said via email after the discussion.

Ryan said the forum had exposed a new level of disenchantment, not only within the audience but amongst forum participants.

"Many participants at the forum made moving comments about what happened to them during the Khmer Rouge period or what the court meant to them," she said.

Sorng Seng, a 50-year-old villager from Koh Kong, said he was angered that the court did not seem to take seriously delays that continued to go unexplained by officials.

Delays go unexplained

"I have noticed that the tribunal seems to be playful in the way it deals with the delays," Sorng Seng said at the event.

A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS EXPRESSED GROWING DISILLUSIONMENT.

"I feel hopeless and surprised to hear and see the slow process of the trial and to hear that the trials have been delayed because of financial problems," he added.
"It makes me trust the court even less," he added.

Saroeun, a regime survivor from Ratanakkiri, also complained that the court was too slow.

"I want to see the court to speed up its work," he said.

Ryan said she believed that poor communication regarding the court's progress was responsible for people's renewed frustration.

"The court could better serve the needs and expectations of the people of Cambodia by being more transparent in its processes and

providing the public with regular factual updates about its work," she said.

"The extreme secrecy behind which the court works is harming its ability to provide a sense justice to Cambodians."

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