Cambodia: Khmer Rouge leaders charged with genocide against minorities

Among other crimes, former members of the Khmer Rouge’s ruling clique are facing charges of genocide for the regime’s alleged targeting of minorities.

In September, the Co-Investigating Judges at an international tribunal issued a Closing Order in the case of four former Khmer Rouge leaders. The Closing Order lays out the final case against four of leaders of the regime that killed at least 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. All face various charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last December, the court added charges of genocide, which stem from the regime’s treatment of the Cham Muslim and Vietnamese minorities.

The Khmer Rouge executed those deemed political enemies regardless of their background. But prosecutors argued that the regime particularly targeted the Cham because of their religious beliefs, and the Vietnamese because of their nationality. Historians are divided on the issue of whether genocide charges are appropriate. In his book The Pol Pot Regime: race, power and genocide under the Khmer Rouge, Ben Kiernan accuses regime leaders of using rhetoric about ridding Cambodia of those not part of the majority Khmer ethnic group.

Another scholar, Gregory Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, conducted research suggesting that Chams faced a mortality rate of more than 50 percent under the Khmer Rouge, while the rate affecting the overall population was 21 percent.

In 1999, a UN panel concluded that the regime’s targeting of the Cham and Vietnamese minorities constituted genocide. Other experts disagree.

Philip Short, author of Pol Pot: anatomy of a nightmare, has said the Khmer Rouge targeted Chams and Vietnamese for the same political reasons it executed other Cambodians. David Chandler, a leading historian of the Khmer Rouge who teaches at Monash University, has said the charges will be hard to prove and are likely to slow down a case that comes more than three decades after the regime fell.

The treatment of minorities under the Khmer Rouge promises to be highly debated in the upcoming trial.

Contact

Jared Ferrie, Asia Editor, via the Contact page.

Youk Chhang
Head of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia
Email: dccam@online.com.kh

 

Photos by Jared Ferrie. If you use a photo, please provide a photo credit.

Gallery

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Members of the Cham Muslim minority line up outside the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal at the start of its first case in February 2009
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Skulls on display in a monument at the "Killing Fields" site outside Phnom Penh where the Khmer Rouge carried out executions
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Buddhist monks outside the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal at the start of its first case in February 2009
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A tourist looks at a monument at the "Killing Fields" site outside Phnom Penh where the Khmer Rouge carried out executions
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