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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Public fora generate more interest as KRT picks up

Public fora generate more interest as KRT picks up

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Helen Jarvis. center right, is holding a poster during a public forum held in Battambang on October 5.

Another public forum in the Center for Social Development series begun last year

drew about 140 former Khmer Rouge soldiers and victims from 13 districts on October

5 to discuss their thoughts about justice for the KR leaders.

Im Sophea, executive assistant at CSD, said as the activity at the Extraordinary

Chambers of the Courts in Cambodia (ECCC) picks up, more interest in the war crimes

tribunal is being generated.

He said the three-year series of 18 public fora begun last year may not be enough

to reach everyone interested. CSD is putting on the fora with funding from German

Development Service and Diakonia/SIDA.

Reach Sambath, ECCC spokesman, said the ECCC is cooperating with NGOs like CSD to

get more information out about the tribunal.

"We have done a lot but we think it never can be enough. A lot more work needs

to be done," said Sambath. "Sometimes we have visited at the grassroots

level and informed people about our work. We could not do it in one day, it takes

a long time to explain."

Sambath said thousands of people have visited the ECCC office on the outskirts of

Phnom Penh.

Before opening the dialogue, some of the participants wept as they watched the film

"Time for Justice" about the life of a family during the KR time. In the

film the parents tell their children about the difficulties of the time, but the

children have a hard time believing what happened.

Any Amet, from the office of the Co-prosecutor of the ECCC, said when he travels

to the provinces many people ask him why bother with the elderly KR leaders who are

now in their 70s and 80s.

"I think the people are not interested with the trial of one or 10 people. What

they want to know is how the crime happened and who committed it," said Amet

who participated in the forum. "Crime against humanity is so serious."

Others participating said they welcomed the tribunal and are anxious to see the trial

start.

Kan Chek, 58, from Koh Kralor district, said he supports the tribunal and he wants

the prosecutors to arrest more suspects and put them on trial soon.

"My life was very hard, I moved from one place to another and was separated

from my relatives," said Chek. "I really want to see the trial."

Yiv Samath, 50, who became a Khmer Rouge soldier at age 18 and remained for decades

until reintegration with the government in 1996, said he does not object to trying

the leaders such as Brother No. 2, Nuon Chea.

"I did not think that regime so cruel. I was very shocked and cried when I saw

the torture materials and the pictures of the people who were tortured," said

Samath, referring to his visit to Tuol Sleng and Cheung Ek genocide museums.

"Cambodian people died without doing anything wrong. They were killed without

investigation."

Helen Jarvis, head of public affairs of the ECCC, said Cambodians and the world have

waited a long time to see justice for the victims and the court is trying to move

as quickly as it can. Jarvis said the pre chambers of the court will decide in November

whether to continue to detain or to release on bail the former S-21 KR prison director

Kaing Khek Iev known as Duch.

Duch has been in detention for eight years in military prison before moving to the

ECCC detention center.

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