Khmer leader Comrade Duch takes the stand in Cambodian tribunal

Monday, March 30, 2009

Today is the first day of the long-awaited first trial at Cambodia's Khmer Rouge tribunal. The man best known as Comrade Duch faces charges of crimes against humanity for his role in the torture and murder of thousands of people. The BBC's Guy De Launey is follow the story in Phnom Pehn and he joins The Takeaway with an update.

For a brief overview of the history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the travesties leading up to the tribunal, watch the video below.

A Timeline of the Khmer Rouge

Cambodia is placed under France's protection.

Cambodia is occupied by Japan during World War II.

A coup establishes General Lon Nol as president of a new, U.S.-backed regime in Khmer Republic.

The Cambodian Communist Party, aka Khmer Rouge, seizes power after years of guerrilla warfare in the country. They are led by Pol Pot.

Pol Pot becomes prime minister, while Khieu Samphan becomes president, the head of state.

Due to the extreme policies of the Khmer Rouge, an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians die from exhaustion, starvation, torture, or execution.

January 1979
Vietnam takes control of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh, forcing Khmer Rouge forces to flee to the border areas of the country. The overthrow results in the establishment of a new government in nation renamed the People's Republic of Kampuchea, but also another decade of violence in civil war.

A member of the new government, Hun Sen becomes prime minister amid extensive guerilla warfare.

The country is renamed Cambodia.

A peace agreement is signed in Paris between the Royalist Party, the Republicans, The Khmer Rouge and the current Vietnamese-backed regime.

After Prince Norodom Sihanouk wins election, defeating Hun Sen, the Cambodian monarchy is restored under a coalition government and a new constitution.

Thousands of Khmer Rouge guerrillas surrender in a government amnesty deal.

April 1994
U.S. Congress passes the Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, which supports efforts to try members of the Khmer Rouge for war crimes.

July 1997
The Khmer Rouge sentences Pol Pot to life imprisonment.

December 1997
The United Nations General Assembly adopts a resolution to assist Cambodians' pursuit of charges against the Khmer Rouge.

Pol Pot dies at age 73.

The United Nations approves a tribunal that will try Khmer Rouge leaders.

Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok, dies at age 80.

November 2007–March 2008
During the first public hearing of the genocide tribunal, Kaing Guek Eav ("Comrade Duch") has a bail plea. It is later refused.

March 2009
Comrade Duch becomes the first former Khmer Rouge leader to stand trial.


Guy De Launey

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