Survivors of a notorious Khmer Rouge death camp said yesterday that they are praying for their former torturer, who is now ill, because they want him to live long enough to face trial along with other leaders of the genocidal regime.
Former Khmer Rouge leader Kaing Khek Iev is being treated at a Phnom Penh military hospital for a urinary track problem.
Also known as Duch, he ran the notorious S-21 prison, where up to 16,000 men, women and children were tortured and taken away to be executed. Only 14 people are thought to have survived the prison.
One of the survivors, 63-year-old Bou Meng, said he has burned incense at night and "prayed for [Kaing Khek Iev] not to die because he is very important living evidence."
"I pray for him to stay alive. As a survivor I want to see him brought to a court so we can confront each other," he said.
The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, and its radical communist policies led to the death of more than 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
Cambodia and the UN have been discussing an internationally assisted tribunal to try surviving Khmer Rouge leaders since 1997, and the two sides are currently trying to raise the funds for the trial.
As the process drags on, victims fear that the perpetrators will die of old age before going to trial.
Kaing Khek Iev is one of only two senior Khmer Rouge figures in detention awaiting trial.
Pol Pot, the movement's chief, died in 1998, but several of his top lieutenants, aging and infirm, still live freely in Cambodia.
Security has been tight at the hospital where Kaing Khek Iev is being treated, according to his lawyer, Kar Savuth.
It remains unclear if he is to undergo surgery.