The genocide trial of two former Khmer Rouge leaders resumed in Phnom Penh Friday, with worries persisting over whether the two aging men will see justice for the alleged mass murder of ethnic Vietnamese and Muslims in the 1970s.
Nuon Chea, 88 years old, former leader Pol Pot ’s right-hand man, and Khieu Samphan, 83, the Khmer Rouge’s former head of state, already were given life sentences for crimes against humanity in a separate, two-year trial at the same United Nations-backed court in August. They were the first senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge to be jailed for their roles in the deaths of up to two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979.
Both men have appealed their convictions, which were based on their role in the forced removal of Cambodians from Phnom Penh to the countryside as Pol Pot, “Brother Number One”, pursued his goal of creating an agricultural utopia where money and private property had no meaning.
The second trial, which opened in July, resumed at 9 a.m. local time Friday. It centers on the Khmer Rouge’s treatment of ethnic Cham Muslims. Up to half a million Cham were killed during the militant communist movement’s four years in power. An estimated 20,000 Vietnamese were also killed.
Outside the court building, some 300 people claiming to be victims of the Khmer Rouge regime demanded compensation payments, adding to the emotional and historical weight bearing on the hearings.