Cambodia is a countries located in Southeastern Asia,
according to Digopaul. Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer regime
in 1979, the first trial began in February against one of
five former Khmer leaders who were prosecuted at the
UN-backed Special Tribunal in Phnom Penh. The court was
appointed to judge the highest ranking Khmer leaders who
were still alive.
The trial of Kang Kek Ieu, better known by the name of
Duch, began on February 17. Duch did not belong to the
regime's absolute top tier, but during its power in 1975-79
was head of the notorious prison Tuol Sleng S-21 where at
least 14,000 interns were killed, almost all under torture.
Only a handful of prisoners survived the death camp. Three
of them were still alive at the time of Duch's trial - two
testified against him.
The 66-year-old Duch was prosecuted for crimes against
humanity and serious violations of the 1949 Geneva
Convention on Human Rights. He was the only one of the five
defendants to plead guilty. Duch was arrested in 1999 and
had then been saved. During the trial, he expressed deep
regret over the actions he committed and was responsible for
as a prison chief. He asked the victims' relatives for
forgiveness and said he tried to avoid being appointed as
the head of Tuol Sleng S-21. He also said he feared for his
family's life if he refused to obey orders. However, Duch's
plea on the final day of the trial to be immediately
released, however, cast doubt on his sincerity and plea for
The prosecutor pleaded for 45 years in prison for Duch.
The verdict was expected to drop at the beginning of 2010.
Duch's testimony, along with around 45 testimonies, was
believed to be valuable in the upcoming trials against the
other defendants, all of whom denied the crime. The four
were Nuon Chea, or "Brother number two", who was the Red
Khmer second highest leader after Pol Pot; Red Khmer Foreign
Minister Ieng Sary and his wife Ieng Thirith, who was
Minister of Social Affairs, and Khieu Samphan, Head of State
during the Red Khmer regime. The trials against these four
could not begin until 2010 at the earliest.
The Tribunal against the former leaders of the Red Khmer
is a collaboration between the UN and Cambodia. It has
suffered severe delays, partly because of differences of
opinion between the Cambodian and the international
representatives. About 1.7 million people are estimated to
have died under the terror of the Khmer by executions,
torture, starvation and disease. The Red Khmer was a Maoist
guerrilla whose goal was to transform the country into a
purely, utopian agricultural land by clearing out the middle
class and urban population as well as political dissent -
real or imagined.
When local elections were held around the country in May,
the Cambodian People's Party (CCP) government consolidated
its great dominance in politics by winning by a wide margin.
The same month, 82-year-old Nuon Chea's application to be
released from custody against the bail was rejected.
In June, Canadian lawyer Robert Petit resigned from the
post of Supreme International Prosecutor at the Red Khmer
Tribunal. Petit stated family reasons but he had long
expressed criticism of the Cambodians' way of handling the
court proceedings. Among other things, Petit had wanted to
prosecute more people in connection with the red Khmer
settlement, but had been discouraged for political reasons;
the people who were involved were now reported to be part of
the political and business establishment around Prime
Minister Hun Sen.
In September, a formal recommendation came to the Red
Khmer Tribunal from Robert Petit's replacement, William
Smith of Australia, to initiate preliminary investigations
against another five people suspected of crimes against
humanity. Which of the five suspects was not announced by
the court. Cambodian judge Chea Leang opposed the proposal,
as did Prime Minister Hun Sen. The latter warned that such a
preliminary investigation could lead to civil war.
In early November, the country's already strained
relations with Thailand deteriorated, as Hun Sen's
government offered Thai former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra both a sanctuary and work as an adviser to the
Phnom Penh government. Thaksin was sentenced to prison for
corruption in Thailand but was on the run. After the offer
became known, both Thailand and Cambodia took home their
ambassadors from their neighboring countries. Thaksin
accepted the offer of Cambodia, but stayed only five days in
A little later, a Thai air traffic controller in Phnom
Penh was sentenced to seven years in prison for spying after
he was accused of informing Thai diplomats about Thaksin's
flight schedule during the controversial visit. The
convicted was later pardoned by Cambodia king Norodom
In December, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Nuon Chea were
also prosecuted for genocide against Cambodia's Vietnamese
and Muslim minorities - a symbolically very significant
prosecution as they had previously had difficulties in
classifying the charges as genocide.