More than 1,000 Cambodians attended an emotional re-enactment of a Khmer Rouge massacre at a “Day of Anger” memorial yesterday, demanding swift justice for former regime leaders on trial.
The crowd, including monks and children, somberly looked on as students clad in black graphically mimed the abuse and murder of victims near mass graves at a notorious “killing field” on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
“It reminded me of the day the Khmer Rouge took my husband away and killed him,” said Chuon Yorn, who lost nearly 20 members of her family during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, after the annual event to remember the dead.
“I want the Khmer Rouge leaders to receive serious punishment. I want justice very soon,” the tearful 62-year-old said, adding that she feared the octogenarian defendants would die before the court reached a verdict.
The Khmer Rouge’s three most senior surviving leaders are currently on trial at a UN-backed court in the Cambodian capital for crimes against humanity and other atrocities.
One of the accused, former Cambodian minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary, was taken ill last week, underscoring concerns that the defendants’ poor health could defeat attempts to secure justice for the victims.
Led by “Brother No. 1” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge emptied cities, abolished money and schools, in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
Up to 2 million people were executed or died from starvation, overwork or torture during their brutal reign.
Former Khmer Rouge prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, had his initial 30-year prison sentence for overseeing the killing of about 15,000 people increased to life on appeal in February.
He was the first person to face justice at the tribunal.