09/16/2010, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Four more Khmer Rouge leaders put on trial

Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith. They are accused of genocide, torture and religious persecution. The work of the court is criticized for its silence and cost, beyond all expectations.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The UN-backed tribunal has indicted four former Khmer Rouge leaders preparing the way for a new trial, after the trial that has just ended against Kaing Guek Eav (known as "Duch"), head of the Tuol Sleng prison, where around 17 000 people died from torture, starvation and execution.

The court stated that the next trial will start mid next year. The accused are: Nuon Chea, the ideologist of the group, also known as its "number two", the deputy to supreme leader, Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan, who was president of Kampuchea (the state dominated by the Khmer Rouge, which lasted only some years), Ieng Sary, former foreign minister, his wife Ieng Thirith, former minister for social affairs.

The four have been held since 2007 and have been questioned at least 46 times before the framing of charges. In their eighties now, they will be tried for genocide, torture and religious persecution.

It is estimated that 2 million Cambodians died under the regime, from 1975 to 1979. Inspired by Maoism and eager to build an agricultural utopia, the Khmer Rouge forced the entire population to leave the cities, set up forced labour camps in rice fields, eliminated intellectuals and enemies of the revolution. Their leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998.

The court however has earned a bad reputation. First, because many Cambodians do not want to resurrect that period of terror for fear of further violence, also because the charges against the Khmer Rouge are limited: none have been laid against figures who are still in government; there has been no inquiry into the dealings and complicity of other countries (China, U.S., USSR, etc ...).

Finally, many Cambodians are critical of the waste of money on the court. Originally it was to cost only20 million dollars for a period of three years. So far it has cost over 70 million dollars and has only tried one defendant.

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