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Cambodia Khmer Rouge Leaders Found Guilty of Genocide

On November 16th, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) sentenced two former leaders of the Khmer Rouge, a radical communist regime in Cambodia, to life imprisonment.

What Are the Killing Fields?

Khieu Samphan (L) and Nuon Chea (R), the senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, were sentenced to life imprisonment for brutal crimes during the 1975-1979 rule of the regime. (Reuters)

The Cambodian Killing Fields are the locations of mass brutal sites where the genocide of at least 1.7 million people took place, which was almost one-fifth of the whole population of Cambodia at that time, while the Khmer Rouge regime ruled the country from 1975 to 1979. The Khmer Rouge tortured and killed those perceived to be enemies, including intellectuals, former government officials, and minorities like Vietnamese and Cham Muslims in the name of building an agrarian utopia. Its social engineering included forcing people to move to the countryside and work at communal farms. People died from execution, starvation, overwork, and disease. After about four years of rule in 1979, the Khmer Rouge was ousted by rebel forces and Vietnamese troops. Pol Pot, the leader of Khmer Rouge at the time, fled to the jungle and died in 1998 under house arrest.

Trials of Khmer Rouge Leaders

On November 16th, two of the most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, were found to be guilty of genocide by the ECCC, a court which was established in cooperation of the Cambodian government and the United Nations (UN) to punish the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge rule. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were known as “Brother Number Two” and “Brother Number Four” under Pol Pot, serving as the Prime Minister and the chairman of the state presidium respectively. In 2010, they were charged with the brutal crimes of the Khmer Rouge, and their cases were separated. According to the ECCC, the 1st case focused on the forced movement of people and the execution of the soldiers of the previous regime. At the trial for the first case in 2014, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment but appealed against the decision. In 2016, however, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal and upheld the sentence of life imprisonment. The 2nd case regarded genocide against the Cham Muslims and the Vietnamese, forced marriages and rape, internal purges, and other alleged crimes against humanity. The trial for the 2nd case took place in November 2018, and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were found guilty of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment as well. This was the first judgment to officially acknowledge the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime.

정선우  jsw5861@skku.edu

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