Khmer Rouge leaders sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide
They wanted to create an "atheistic and homogeneous" society, eliminating "all ethnic, religious, racial, class and cultural differences". The special court, established in 2006, has only sentenced three people to date. Hun Sen wants it to end.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - A UN tribunal today sentenced two Khmer Rouge leaders to life imprisonment for "genocide". They are Nuon Chea, 92 (right in the picture), the deputy of the leader Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan, 87 years (left in the photo), who was president of the Democratic Kampuchea, the state founded by the Khmer Rossi from 1975 to 1979.
The two are already serving life imprisonment for "crimes against humanity" operated on the Cambodian population. Today is the first condemnation of "genocide" and refers to the plan to destroy the ethnic Cham Muslim group, the Vietnamese in Cambodia and other religious minorities.
The sentence states that the Khmer Rouge wanted "to establish an atheistic and homogeneous society, suppressing all ethnic, religious, racial, class and cultural differences". The two convicts denied the atrocities committed.
It is estimated that up to two million people were killed in the short but brutal period of their rule. The Khmer subjected the population into forced labor in the camps, imprisonment, torture and massacres. But the killing of Khmer by other Khmer was not considered "genocide".
The ruling today instead denounces the plan of Pol Pot to eradicate "the Vietnamese to the last seed", as well as the Cham ethnicity. According to the testimonies that emerged at the trial, between 1975 and 1979, between 100,000 and 500,000 Cham were killed with massacres, burnings, beheadings, rape, forced marriages and cannibalism.
The special court of Cambodia for the Khmer Rouge crimes was established in 2006 and has so far only sentenced three people.
In 2010 it condemned Kaing Guek Eav, called "Duch", responsible for the famous torture center of Tuol Sleng, today home to the genocide museum. Duch has become a Christian in prison and is the only one to have recognized his crimes and have asked for forgiveness.
Accused along with Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, there was Leng Sary, who however died in 2014, before the conclusion of the first trial. His wife, Leng Thirith, Kampuchea's social affairs minister, also accused, was judged to be unhealthy and died in 2015. Pol Pot, "brother number one", died in 1998 without undergoing any trial.
Although there are accusations against other Khmer Rouge, premier Hun Sen has often disagreed with the continuation of the trials He too was a leader in the organization. According to the premier, the Cambodian people want to turn the page and forget that period of violence.
In fact, most Cambodians do not care about the process. Above all, young people want their country to be known for something other than massacres.