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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Prosectors seek 40 years for Khmer Rouge jail chief

CNN) -- Prosecutors in the trial of a former Khmer Rouge prison chief asked a U.N.-backed Cambodian court Wednesday to sentence the man to 40 years in prison for his role in the torture and deaths of thousands.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, is being tried on charges that include war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture during the communist regime's rule from 1975 to 1979.

Soon after the prosecution spoke Wednesday, Duch got up and apologized to the victims' families and asked for their forgiveness -- something he has repeatedly done since he became a born-again Christian.

Duch said he was just an instrument, with no choice but to follow orders from a regime that was determined to destroy all of its enemies, said Lars Olsen, spokesman for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

Duch, 67, asked the court to consider his actions in the context of the time, saying the torture and killings were inevitable, Olsen said.

Duch's trial began in February just outside the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. Lawyers are making closing arguments this week. A verdict is expected sometime early next year.

Prosecutors contended that Duch, a former school teacher, ran S-21 -- a prison that had been converted from a school.

Here, men, women and children were shackled to iron beds and tortured -- before they were beaten to death, prosecutors said.

Duch not just oversaw the torture and killing of more than 15,000 people -- but actively took part in some of them, prosecutors said.

Many of the victims were military officials or members of the Communist Party who were targeted for not going along with the philosophy of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge movement.

The movement swept to power in 1975. Three years, eight months and 20 days later, at least 1.7 million people -- nearly one-quarter of Cambodia's population -- were dead from execution, disease, starvation and overwork, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

The non-profit organization has been at the forefront of recording the atrocities committed during the regime.

S-21 was one of 189 similar institutions across Cambodia. And Duch is the first former Khmer Rouge leader to stand trial.

Spectators, many of them survivors of the abuse, watched the proceedings from an auditorium separated from the courtroom by a large glass window to prevent revenge attacks.

Four other former leaders await trial before the tribunal, also accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The tribunal, which is made up of Cambodian and international judges, does not have the power to impose the death penalty.
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S. Korea to airlift supplies to storm-hit Cambodia

SEOUL, Nov. 25 — South Korea said Wednesday it will airlift about seven tons of supplies this week to Cambodia as part of its pledge to help the Southeast Asian country bounce back from recent storm damage.

A C-130 transport aircraft carrying tuna cans, powdered milk, soap and other supplies will depart Thursday after the leaders of the two countries agreed last month on joint recovery efforts, the Ministry of National Defense in Seoul said in a statement.

South Korea will contribute US$ 200,000 worth of supplies, half of which will be carried on the aircraft while the other half will be delivered by local suppliers in Cambodia, the ministry said.

Typhoon Ketsana killed at least 18 people in central Cambodia in September, injuring 100 others and destroying scores of homes, according to news reports. (PNA/Yonhap)

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Khmer Rouge jailer expresses 'excruciating remorse'

By Ek Madra


PHNOM PENH, The Khmer Rouge's chief torturer and jailer expressed "excruciating remorse" on Wednesday for more than 14,000 people killed under his watch at a notorious prison during Cambodia's ultra-Maoist revolution of the 1970s.

In the final week of testimony for the first senior Khmer Rouge cadre to face the U.N.-backed "Killing Fields" tribunal, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, said he was solely liable for the killings but that he served a mafia-type group.

"I found I had ended up serving a criminal organisation which destroyed its own people in outrageous fashion. I could not withdraw from it," said the 67-year-old former maths teacher.

"I was like a screw in the machinery of a car that could not be removed."

Duch is accused of "crimes against humanity, enslavement, torture, sexual abuses and other inhumane acts" as commander of S-21 prison during one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century, when the Khmer Rouge ruled from 1975-79 under Pol Pot.

He said he was convinced he was fighting to free Cambodia from U.S. imperialism during the Vietnam War. He has denied personally killing or torturing prisoners and has repeatedly said he was following orders out of fear for his own life.

Karim Khan, a civil party lawyer, urged the tribunal's five-judge panel this week to reject Duch's assertion he had little choice but to carry out orders, saying Duch was "ideologically of the same mind" as the Khmer Rouge leaders.

The tribunal seeks justice for 1.7 million people, nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population, who perished from execution, overwork or torture during the Khmer Rouge's agrarian revolution, which ended in the 1979 invasion by Vietnam.

"I am deeply remorseful of and profoundly affected by this destruction," he said. "I am solely and individually liable for the loss of at least 12,380 lives."

Researchers say more than 14,000 were killed after passing through S-21, also known as Tuol Sleng. Only seven survived.

"PSYCHOLOGICALLY ACCOUNTABLE"

Duch faces up to life in prison if convicted. A prosecutor said on Thursday Duch should get 40 years in prison for his role. Cambodia does not have capital punishment.

Now a born-again Christian, Duch has in the past expressed remorse for the S-21 victims, most of them tortured and forced to confess to spying and other crimes before they were bludgeoned to death at the "Killing Fields" execution sites.

But he appeared to take this further on Wednesday, speaking of his wish to apologise "forever" and telling a court packed with about 600 people, including some survivors of the regime, he would seek help to be recognised again as "part of humankind".

"I am psychologically accountable to the entire Cambodian population for the souls of those who perished," he said.

"May I plead with you to allow me to share with you my immense and enduring sorrow ... in order to express my most excruciating remorse."

Prosecution lawyers say Duch had broad autonomy and did nothing to stop prison guards from inflicting rampant torture.

Witnesses in 72 days of hearings spoke of beatings with metal pipes, electrocution, near-starvation, violent rape and forcing some prisoners to eat their own excrement.

A verdict is expected by March.

"I want him to face up to 80 years or life in jail," said 79-year-old Chum Mey, a rare S-21 survivor.

Mey was accused by the Khmer Rouge of working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency before he was shackled, confined to a cell and tortured. He testified earlier in the year his toenails were torn off and he nearly starved to death.

A defence lawyer said Duch was unfairly singled out while nearly 200 other Khmer Rouge prison chiefs were never arrested or brought before a judge, including some who oversaw prisons and camps where as many as 150,000 people were killed.

"They have to be brought before the court," he said. "Only then will justice be done."

Four other senior Khmer Rouge cadres are in custody awaiting trial. They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, his wife Khieu Thirith and "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea. Unlike Duch, they have not publicly apologised.

Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998.

The chamber of three Cambodian and two foreign judges -- known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia -- requires four to agree on a verdict.


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Cambodian court to rule on spy charges against Thai engineer on Dec 8

A Cambodian court is scheduled to deliver a ruling in the case against a Thai engineer, who was arrested on an espionage charge, on December 8, a senor Thai Justice Ministry official said Wednesday.

Thai News Agency quoted Thawee Sodsong, deputy permanent secretary for Justice, as saying that the court was scheduled to deliver a ruling on the case against Siwrak Chutipong on December 8.

Thawee arrived at the Suvarnabhumi Airport Wednesday morning after meeting the Cambodian justice minister and Siwarak in Phnom Penh, Thai News Agency said.

Thawee said the Cambodian justice minister promised to ensure that Siwarak would receive justice and he would make arrangement for Siwarak's mother to visit him in the prison.

Thawee said Siwarak was being detained in a 5 x 5 metre cell along with four other suspects
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Thais Endorse PM’s Handling of Cambodia Row

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Most people in Thailand think Abhisit Vejjajiva has handled recent tensions with neighbouring Cambodia well, according to a poll by ABAC. 51.9 per cent of respondents say the prime ministers calm attitude has been appropriate, while 39.4 per cent say his response to Cambodia should be harsher.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democratic Party (PP), has been in office since December 2008.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have become increasingly tense as, in early November, the Cambodian government announced that it had named former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an economic adviser.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, is a polarizing figure in Thailand. His supporters and critics have clashed on the streets since his departure from the country, and Thaksin has called for a "revolution" against the Abhisit government. The former prime minister has been convicted in cases of conflict of interest and would serve two years in jail if he returns to Thailand.

On Nov. 10, Thaksin arrived in Cambodia. The Thai government called for his extradition, which the Cambodian government rejected. Both countries have recalled their respective ambassadors and top diplomats over the Thaksin appointment.

On Nov. 17, Panitan Wattanayagorn, deputy secretary-general to Thai prime minister Abhisit, confirmed that the Thai government is looking for ways to curb aid to Cambodia over the Thaksin issue, declaring, "Most of the projects discussed are aid and loans for infrastructure projects, which might be delayed or cancelled."

Polling Data

Do you think the actions of Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva regarding Cambodia were appropriate or inappropriate?

Appropriate, he stayed calm in spite of provocation 51.9%

Inappropriate, he should take harsher measures in light of these developments 39.4%

Source: Assumption University of Thailand (ABAC)
Methodology: Interviews with 1,344 Thai adults in 17 provinces, conducted in November 2009. Margin of error is 2 per cent.

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