The attendees of Khmer Rouge tribunal public outreach sessions in Oddar Meanchey and Battambang provinces over the past few days – some of them former Khmer Rouge cadres – have spoken out against the court’s government-opposed cases 003 and 004.
In Sav Rith, governor of Battambang’s Samlot district, said yesterday that people in his district had said that the cases – which focus on five senior regime officials – were unnecessary.
After the fall of the regime in 1979, the Khmer Rouge continued fighting in the country’s northwest for nearly two decades, and residents feared that pushing ahead with the cases could lead to fresh unrest, he added.
“My opinion, and other people’s, is that they do not have to continue the cases, because our country is peaceful,” Sav Rith said. “Samlot district has been peaceful less than 15 years, so we do not want a new war.”
Previous and current defendants Kaing Geuk Eav, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea – all of whom were sentenced to life in prison – were those responsible for the regime’s crimes, he said.
Sang Saroeun, a former Khmer Rouge cadre in Oddar Meanchey’s Anlong Veng district, said he himself feared prosecution.
“At first they did only Case 002, but now they need more cases. If [they continue], we will be convicted. We are just small fish.”
While he had put his past behind him, Saroeun added, “if they want to continue [with the cases], we will live in fear”.
Tribunal public affairs head Dim Sovannarom said that the outreach sessions had attempted to explain to residents in the former Khmer Rouge holdouts that the court was limited to a set number of cases, and that they had nothing to fear.
“But they are free to make their comments.”