Acclaimed artist and Khmer Rouge survivor Vann Nath has slammed the repeated delays
and spiralling costs at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)
and said he has no faith in its eventual outcome.
Speaking at the opening of an exhibition of his paintings, Nath said for victims
of the brutal Pol Pot regime, justice is long overdue.
"I have completely lost hope with the ECCC because it's been 30 years. Many
people who survived and waited to see justice are rapidly dying," Nath said.
"It is better not to wait any more, the problems [at the court] are happening
again and again. I don't think the court will provide justice."
Nath suffers from kidney disease that requires $1,000 each month for dialysis. He
underwent a $10,000 operation for tuberculosis in his spine earlier this year. Mounting
medical costs have rendered him dependent on donations.
Initially optimistic about the ECCC, Nath blasted the proceeding's $56 million price
"They have done nothing and now they have announced a lack of budget for proceedings.
More than $50 million from the UN and the government is a huge amount, but the money
is for the people working at the KRT only," he said. "The amount earned
by a teacher over a decade would still not equal that paid to foreign prosecutors.
If they run out of money they'll just close the door and return back to their own
But ECCC press spokesman Reach Sambath, who attended the opening, defended the court
and expressed confidence that justice would be done.
"We understand his concerns and we, the court, will try to resolve them. We
are still optimistic the process can work," said Sambath.
Sambath said that at the end of the year the Cambodian government and the United
Nations would appeal for more members to contribute to the ECCC's budget.
Nath, 62, is one of only seven people who survived the infamous Tuol Sleng prison,
where an estimated 14,000 men, women and children were interrogated and executed
during the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. He said the Khmer Rouge trials were vital for
new generations of Cambodians to better understand the torment their forebears had
"More than 2 million people were killed at the time, among those more than 20,000
from S-21. I think those people did not commit any crime which led to their death,"
he said. "They killed people without any investigation or trial."
Vann Nath survived the horrific conditions at Tuol Sleng only because he was forced
to sculpt and paint images of Khmer Rouge officials. His 1998 memoir A Cambodia Prison
Portrait: One Year in Khmer Rouge's S-21 Prison, is the only written account by a
survivor of the notorious interrogation centre.
Human Rights Watch senior researcher Sara Colm described Nath as an outspoken advocate
for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, and agreed the ECCC process was not moving
"There have been many problems with the [ECCC]...whether there is the political
will by the Cambodian government as well as by the international community."
She said the delay in having perpetrators brought to justice was "more than
disappointing" for victims of the regime.