Why has it taken so long to prosecute Khmer Rouge leaders

01:00 Tue 07th Aug 2001 |

asks Woolley:

A. The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, under their leader Pol Pot. During that time, they killed 1.7 million people through execution, starvation and disease - mainly Cambodians.

As a fighting force, the Khmer Rouge only collapsed in 1998, but there has been talk about punishing its leaders since the mid-90s.

Q. What happened to Pol Pot
Pol Pot - real name Saloth Sar - died in April 1998. He was thought to be 72 years old. He is notorious for trying to return Cambodia to the middle ages. To fulfil his vision of an agrarian utopia, he emptied the cities and abolished money, private property and religion. Anyone thought to be an intellectual was shot ('intellectual' could mean knowing another language or wearing spectacles).

�The film The Killing Fields depicts life under Pol Pot's regime.

Q. What happened to the Khmer Rouge between 1979 and its collapse in 1998
The Khmer Rouge government fell in 1979 when Vietnam invaded. Pol Pot and his forces fled to the jungle in the north of the country as the outside world began to find out what had been happening in Cambodia.

However, the Khmer Rouge was still supported as a fighting force by the US and other Asian countries throughout the 1980s because of its opposition to Vietnam.

Q. How many Khmer Rouge leaders are still around
Two are in jail awaiting trial: Ta Mok ('The Butcher') and Kaing Khek, the chief executioner.

Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, has been given a partial amnesty after he defected with 10,000 supporters in 1996 (a move which led to the end of the Khmer Rouge).

Another two are at liberty: Nuon Chea, the chief political theorist, Khieu Samphan, public apologist.

Q. When will the trials begin
It's not clear - by the beginning of next year say some experts. The legislation needs a signature from King Norodom Sihanouk to become law, and then it must be approved by the UN.

Q. Will it be a fair trial
There are concerns about that. The current Cambodian government has some ex-Khmer Rouge members and many Cambodians believe that the trials would have a better chance of success if they were held outside the country.

And there's criticism that there are loopholes in the legislation which could result in only nominal punishment.

Q. Where will the trials be held
In Cambodia, despite fears that they could trigger civil unrest.

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By Sheena Miller

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