Men pay their respects to victims of the Khmer Rouge at the Cheoung Ek Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh on April 17, 33 years to the day after the capital fell to KR forces.
About 700 Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) supporters gathered at the Cheoung Ek Killing Fields on April 17 to mark the 33rd anniversary of the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge.
Seventy Buddhist monks held a blessing ceremony at the site’s glass-walled stupa which contains the remains of some 8,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, said SRP president Sam Rainsy.
“We gather here every year with the families of the victims from across the country and hold a blessing in memory of the victims,” Rainsy said.
The party also uses the commemoration to emphasize the importance of progress on the long-awaited Khmer Rouge trial.
“We want the trial take place as soon as possible in order to find justice for Cambodian people and end the culture of impunity in the country,” Rainsy said.
The UN-backed court has been making steady progress with five defendants now behind bars awaiting trial.
Chap Lorn, 58, a farmer from Saang district of Kandal province, joined the SRP-led memorial service for the first time this year. He told the Post that the event helped remind him of the horrors of the period. “I found out only later that during the KR time over 10,000 of people had been brought to my district to be killed,” he said.
Chea Sron, 75 from Kien Svay district of Kandal province had also never visited the memorial at the Killing Fields before. He said that the trial against former KR leaders must not be delayed because of the lack of evidence.
“When I saw the tall pile of skulls in this stupa I felt that surely it is nothing difficult to punish the former KR leaders,” Sron said.
“Why is the KR tribunal postponing the trial from one day to another when all this evidence exists?”
Both Lorn and Sron said they are worried that the aging former KR leaders will escape justice by dying before they go on trial.
Chour Sok Ty, manager of JC Royal, a private Japanese company that now runs Choeung Ek, said the event had proved a minor irritation for tourists visiting the site.
“I support holding a Buddhist ceremony to honor the memory of victims here, but the opposition leader took the opportunity to do some political campaigning and criticize the current leaders,” he said.