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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Families welcome end to 12-year search for justice

Families welcome end to 12-year search for justice

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Relatives rejoice as four are sentenced for the murders of British deminer Howes and interpreter Houn Hourth

Photo by: AFP

Khmer Rouge rebel Khem Ngun (right) covers his face as a policeman escorts him at Phnom Penh court on Tuesday.

THE families of British deminer Christopher Howes and his Cambodian interpreter Houn Hourth welcomed the guilty verdict against four Khmer Rouge cadres charged with their abduction and murder, saying that the ruling ends years of uncertainty.

"My father Roy Howes and I welcome the verdict of the court and feel that at last justice has been done," Patricia Phillips, sister of Christopher, said in a statement released by the British demining charity and Howes' former employer, Mines Advisory Group (MAG).

"Although we have never sought revenge, we are pleased that the murderers ... have been brought to account," she said. Howes' mother passed away last year.  

Houn Hourth's wife, Chhun Kham, told journalists after the ruling, "There is justice for my husband now that all of the people involved in the killing will face jail".

She added however, that despite this, the US$10,000 compensation ordered by the court felt like a hollow gesture. "It is not an appropriate compensation for the life of my husband," she said. "Even if the court orders to pay the money, I cannot be sure that I will get it."

The verdict marks the end of a 12-year battle to bring those responsible for the 1996 murders to justice.

From their house in Manchester, England, the Howes family commemorated their son's bravery, in life and in death.  

"We are enormously proud of Christopher," their statement said. "He did not leave his team although he had the chance. Such actions ... take an enormous amount of courage."  

Howes had been working as a deminer in Cambodia since 1995. He was working with a team near the Angkor Wat temples when they were surrounded by the guerrillas. It wasn't until the final demise of the Khmer Rouge in 1998 that the basic details of the executions of Howes and Hourth were confirmed.

"He was an extraordinarily brave man, dedicated to assisting the people of Cambodia to rid their country of landmines," MAG's statement said. 

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