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Victims, survivors say they are still watching tribunal

Victims, survivors say they are still watching tribunal

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Despite the constant delays, survivors and victims say they are still hoping the UN-backed tribunal can bring justice

Photo by: HENG CHIVOAN

A Khmer Rouge survivor looks at skulls at the notorious Choeung Ek killing fields outside of Phnom Penh.

While most Cambodians are eager to hear updates on the current border crisis between Cambodia and Thailand, victims and survivors from the Khmer Rouge period say they are more concerned about news on the progress of Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Acclaimed Khmer artist and a survivor of the Khmer Rouge's notorious S-21 prison, Vann Nath, says that he has not stopped looking for updates on the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

"I look for updates on the news of the Khmer Rouge tribunal every day," he said. "I still have hope that the Khmer Rouge tribunal will find justice for the victims."  

He said that when the Khmer Rouge put him in Tuol Sleng prison from 1978 to 1979, he had lost all hope.   

"At that time, I was just waiting to be executed. I had no hope in my life," he

said. "Now, not only I but also other Cambodian people would like to know the result of the trial," he added.  

...Cambodian people would like to know the results of the trial

Up to 16,000 Cambodians were tortured and executed at the S-21 Tuol Sleng prison during the Khmer Rouge regime period.
According to Vann Nath, out of the seven survivors of S-21 prison he is aware of, only three, including him, are still alive today.  One is a painter living in Kandal province and the other is a mechanic in Meanchey district and commune in Phnom Penh.

In total, at least 1.7 million people died of execution, hunger and disease during the Maoist regime.

Chea Veasna, 33, who lost his father and six brothers, said he was also constantly watching for updates on the tribunal. However, he said he had not seen any progress so far.  

"The process of the trial does not move forward. We are always hearing that they are still investigating, and that the money donated has almost all been spent," he said. "We would like the court to speed up the trial."

Vann Nath said that before he had been happy to hear that there would be a trial for the head of the S-21 prison Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, in October. Now, since the delays, he says he has lost interest.

Court spokesman Reach Sambath said delays were due to the accused's lawyers filing an appeal. He said the court plans to have a trial management meeting in January to set a date for the trial of the Duch, who is charged with crimes against humanity.

Chea Veasna said he was concerned that constant delays could mean that the defendants may die before their time in court.

He says the victims who suffered under the regime still regret that Pol Pot and "the Butcher" Ta Mok got away, so it was even more important to make sure the remaining leaders were swiftly tried.

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