Saturday, July 01, 2006

Khmer Rouge tribunal a step nearer

In two days time, 30 Cambodian and international judges will be sworn in and work will start in earnest on preparing the ground for the opening of the long-awaiting trial of the Khmer Rouge hierachy, well those that are still alive, sometime in early 2007. Its taken many years to get to this stage, after delays and prevarication by both the Cambodian government and the United Nations over the format and funding for the tribunal. In the meantime, key suspects have died, including Pol Pot, Son Sen and Ke Pauk, whilst the surviving former KR senior figures are all in their seventies, some with failing health but most are still living freely in Cambodia. I've yet to see a definitive list of those that will be indicted but its sure to include Ta Mok (pictured) and Duch, the only two that are currently in custody, as well as Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, Khieu Thirith and possibly current serving military officers such as Sou Met and Meas Muth, who defected from the Khmer Rouge.

Ta Mok has been in detention since March 1999 but his health is failing fast and fears abound that he may not survive long enough to face trial. It was Ta Mok that put Pol Pot on trial in July 1997 after he took control of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces in Anlong Veng. Pol Pot died in April 1998 though Ta Mok was later forced to flee across the Thai border and was captured in 1999. He's now 82, in detention for crimes against humanity and has high blood pressure and respiratory problems. The only other detainee is Duch, the former head of S-21, the KR's chief interrogation and extermination centre. He's the only one who has confessed to his crimes and his evidence will be crucial in connecting the other senior leadership figures to the genocide and mass murder that took place in the '70s.


Brian Stenson said...

It was interesting to read about Duch in Bizot's book The Gate. An idealist whose ideology was taken to the extreme.

Andy said...

I agree, The Gate is a fascinating account from Bizot of his time in captivity both with Duch and at the French embassy in 1975.

For an in-depth account of the life and times of Comrade Duch I recoomend everyone reads Nic Dunlop's The Lost Executioner, published by Bloomsbury last year.