Who are the Khmer Rouge?
The Khmer Rouge were guerrillas who formed the Communist Party. Their ideology is based on the ideology of both Marxism and Maoism. Initially the Vietnamese,Chinese,Thai and Americans supported the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese at war with the Americans used Cambodia as a base; the Chinese in a bid to counter the Vietnamese did much the same. The US used the Khmer Rouge to counter the Vietnamese. It is in this environment that the Khmer Rouge was allowed to develop. During their period in power 1975-1979 the Khmer Rouge killed around 2 million people. Following the fall of Khmer Rouge,Cambodia entered a period of civil war. Undeterred by their removal Pol Pot and his army conducted their struggle from the jungles along the Thai border. A confounding issue is the absence of information of Pol Pot himself. It is believed that he was publicly seen around ten times,his public broadcasts limited and knowledge about him virtually non-existent: he was simply known as Brother No. 1. Pol Pot died in 1998
Who is Comrade Duch?
Duch was a primary figure in Pol Pots regime. In charge of the S21 (Tuol Seng) he over saw the death of almost 15,000 people. Tuol Seng is a school in Phnom Penh,which was turned into an interrogation centre and prison. In a bid to create a pure agrarian communist society,thousands were moved from the cities to countryside: those who voiced any form of dissent or were considered to be intellectuals,or threats to the regime were brought to S21. Out of the thousands of inmates that came into S21 only 14 have survived: instructions to kill were issued by Duch. S21 stored the records of the Khmer Rouge along with documentation: this information has been critical in bringing Duch to the tribunal. The end of the Khmer Rouge was complete when the Vietnamese army broke into S21: until then public and international awareness of S21 was virtually unknown. Duch soon disappeared after the fall of Khmer Rouge,and re-surfaced only when he was recognised by a journalist: he has been in prison since May 1999.
Why is he on trial 30 years later?
The primary reason behind the delay has been the Cambodian governments desire to maintain legitimacy over the court. Further,this will be the first instance where civil law will be practiced in an international court agreement between the UN and Cambodia on the nature of the court and its procedure have created complications. Agreement was finally reached in 2005 with the creation of a joint tribunal known as Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Following this period the decision of where the judges would come from has created confusion. As it stands there are 7 judges in the appeals court four Cambodian and three international. The trial chamber comprises of 5 judges,three Cambodian and two foreign there needs to be a majority agreement between the judges for any verdict to be passed. This trial will be a benchmark trial for the International Court of Justice and a step towards rehabilitating the excesses of the brutal regime.
What is the situation in Cambodia today?
Following international intervention and UN monitoring,a democratic government has been set up in Cambodia. The simple fact that Duch is being brought to court is an indication of progress. Further,there are 4 others lined up for trial,one of whom was second in command.
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