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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Thoughts on the Khmer Rouge regime and trial

Thoughts on the Khmer Rouge regime and trial

Democratic Kampuchea seized power from April 17, 1975, until January 6, 1979.

When the Khmer Rouge took over, they used armed forces to immediately set up a society

without discrimination. The Khmer Rouge was committed to basic principles, included

closing schools, hospitals and factories as well as eliminating the use of currency

and religion. They evacuated people from the city to remote areas. The growth of

the economy depended only on cultivation. We all survived from the destruction.

The regime was toppled on January 7, 1979. More than three million innocent people

died from killing and starvation, as well as forced labor during this period. The

legacy this regime left for millions of people was homelessness, illiteracy and mental

damage. Infrastructure and public services were destroyed. Cambodia was in the year


After the Khmer Rouge rule ended, Cambodia descended into a terrible period of civil

war. However, the civil war finished in 1998 after the political and military structure

of the Khmer Rouge were destroyed. But the civil war left thousands of people homeless

among the devastation, caused illiteracy and widowed thousands of women.

Because we started from the year zero and experienced civil war, Cambodians have

had difficulty developing their country. But we have achieved national reconciliation,

as well as forced the Khmer Rouge's senior officials to be responsible for the crimes

they committed between 1975 and 1979.

It was very difficult to prosecute those people while the civil war was going on.

In 1997, the Cambodian co-prime ministers requested the United Nations' help preparing

the Khmer Rouge trial. Since then, with the civil war ending in 1998, the Royal Government

of Cambodia and the United Nations have been working together to set up an international

court to try some of the people who were involved in the crimes.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has made an effort and a pledge that will see the

prosecution of those perpetrators. The results of that effort and pledge are evidenced

by the approval of every regulation and the joint financial contribution for the

Khmer Rouge trial.

The law on establishing the extraordinary chambers for the Khmer Rouge trial in Cambodia

was adopted in 2001. The agreement between the United Nations and Royal Government

of Cambodia on the criminal trial of Democratic Kampuchea by Cambodian law was signed

in 2003 and approved in 2004. The law setting up the extraordinary chambers was amended

in 2004.

I believe that the destruction that occurred between 1975 and 1979 cannot be forgotten.

I think that the Khmer Rouge trial has to be fair and independent to provide justice

to the victims who suffered from this cruel regime. It is a step toward peace and

national reconciliation and will help urge Cambodia to adhere to the rule of law.

The Khmer Rouge trial is not only an example of a court that could be a success for

Cambodia, but also a contribution to justice at an international level.



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