Former Khmer Rouge Leaders Use Grounds of Nationalism to Obstruct Justice

Posted by khmernews on March 9, 2007

Dictator Saddam Hussein was prosecuted and hung about one month ago. His hanging has led a number of dictatorial politicians throughout the world especially in Asia both in the past and present into hopelessness and fear.
Even Cambodian politicians who use violence and have a dictatorial leadership style have gradually reduced their violent acts even though they are very much against people power in the country. In Cambodia, the former Khmer Rouge leaders who are still alive, including Mr. Khieu Samphan, Mr. Ieng Sary and particularly Mr. Nuon Chea defended and called Iraqi dictatorial leader Saddam Hussein a nationalist.

Nuon Chea’s words did not surprise the people because in general, dictators – both inside and outside the country – always claim that they are nationalists. Like Saddam Hussein, Mr. Nuon Chea, a former Khmer Rouge leader in charge of spreading the Khmer Rouge genocidal doctrine, will face prosecution for his crimes against humanity. Mr. Nuon Chea’s punishment will be more severe than Saddam Hussein’s many times. Mr. Nuon Chea and Saddam Hussein have always hidden their crimes. Mr. Nuon Chea has called his group during the 1970s a group of nationalists. Mr. Nuon Chea’s affirmation is to conceal crimes committed by his group in the past and to get punishments for his group commuted. I am not sure what this means?

Mr. Saddam Hussein said that what he did was to serve the interests of Iraqi people. Likewise, the Khmer Rouge once said that what it did in Cambodia was to protect Cambodia from being controlled by foreign invaders.

The hanging of the dictator leader Saddam Hussein was done hurriedly; however, this kind of execution cannot be done with Mr. Nuon Chea as there is no death penalty in the Cambodian law.

It should be noted that the former Khmer Rouge leaders have not been brought to justice despite Yuon (Vietnamese) soldiers overthrowing Pol Pot and his group in January of 1979. Now, Mr. Nuon Chea and other former Khmer Rouge leaders who are still alive will have no more chance to avoid the punishment and will stand trial for their crimes. About 2 million Cambodian people were killed during the 1970s although they have affirmed over and over again that they are nationalists. Now, only the mixed-tribunal for the prosecution of the Khmer Rouge leaders can find justice for the victims.

So far, there has been no case submitted for the 10 former Khmer Rouge leaders. However, the Khmer Rouge tribunal officers say that prosecution for the former Khmer Rouge leaders will begin in May of this year.

The official name of the Khmer Rouge tribunal is the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia. The current obstacle that the Khmer Rouge tribunal faces is Cambodian and non-Cambodian co-judges and co-prosecutors have not yet reached an agreement on the internal rules that are a key mechanism for the operation of the tribunal. The tribunal started this work in November of last year but it has been obstructed by political inference of the Khmer government. Civil society organization workers have said that Khmer judges disagreed with non-Khmer judges as a result of political influence. For instance, the International Bar Association canceled its legal training for Cambodian lawyers about international law and the Cambodian Bar Association threatened to take legal action against its members who attended the training. Moreover, the Cambodian Bar Association has demanded the right to give legal defense for the former Khmer Rouge leaders.  As a result, the international legal officers have threatened to resign from the tribunal.

The controversy between Khmer and international judges has caused concerns that the former Khmer Rouge leaders who are now over 70, such as Mr. Nuon Chea, the former President of the Khmer Rouge National Assembly, Mr. Khieu Samphan, the former Khmer Rouge State Presidium Chairmen, and Mr. Ieng Sary, the former Khmer Rouge Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs who have been living happily under the banner of Mr. Hun Sen’s democracy, will have died before the tribunal can find justice for the victims. Like Saddam Hussein, Mr. Nuon Chea has always defended himself on the grounds that everything he had done was to serve the Cambodians and to fight against foreign invaders. The general public said that what Nuon Chea has said is to defend himself only. In a recent interview with a non-Cambodian reporter, Mr. Nuon Chea said that the [Cambodian] people have never used the word “genocide” before, only invaders have.

Extracted from: Sralanh Khmer, Vol.03, #332, Thursday 15 February 2007.


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