PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Cambodia’s UN-backed court on Wednesday, December 9, charged another former Khmer Rouge cadre with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes despite the country’s leader repeatedly warning against such prosecutions.
Yim Tith, a former senior Khmer Rouge official, is accused of committing crimes at various execution sites, security centres and labour camps during the regime’s bloody rule in the 1970s.
International co-investigating judge Michael Bohlander said Tith committed “murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, persecution… and other inhumane acts including forced marriage”, according to a court statement.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998 without ever facing justice, the Khmer Rouge dismantled modern society in Cambodia in their quest for an agrarian Marxist utopia, killing up to two million people.
The UN-backed court is an attempt to administer belated justice to the regime’s victims and promote reconciliation in the still scarred nation, but critics say it has not done enough.
It also faces increased official opposition.
Strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a former Khmer Rouge cadre before he defected, has repeatedly hit out at further prosecutions, warning they could ignite civil unrest.
Nonetheless the UN-backed tribunal has pressed ahead with bringing charges against a string of former cadres.
Tith is the fourth Khmer Rouge member to be charged this year, next to Meas Muth, an ex-navy commander, Im Chaem, a female former district official, and mid-ranking regime cadre Ao An.
Until now the court had largely concentrated on pursuing the regime’s most senior people.
That has included Nuon Chea, 89, known as “Brother Number Two”, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 84, who were sentenced to life imprisonment last year by the hybrid tribunal, which was set up in 2006.
The pair are currently undergoing an appeal hearing and a second trial, for genocide, centred around the killing of ethnic Vietnamese and Muslim minorities, forced marriage and rape.
It is not yet clear if Yim Tith and the three other suspects will ever be sent to trial.
The Cambodian investigating judge within the tribunal has not signed off on the charges against the latest suspects – including Tith – reflecting the government’s unease.
Critics say Hun Sen is attempting to thwart the trials of lower level cadres having repeatedly vowed that the current case against former top regime leaders would be the last. – Rappler.com
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