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Trial of last four Khmer Rouge survivors begins Monday

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Paula Bronstein/ Getty Images

The long-awaited trial of the four surviving leaders of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge movement starts in Phnom Penh on Monday. The four are charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.


Cambodians have waited decades for the trial of the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement.

The four who face trial are:

  • Party ideologue Nuon Chea, known as Brother Number Two;
  • Former head of state Khieu Samphan;
  • Former foreign minister Ieng Sary;
  • Ieng Sary's wife, the social affairs minister Ieng Thirith.

All four deny  the charges. 

As many as 2.2 million people died during their government’s rule of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

This is the UN-backed tribunal’s second case – last year it jailed Khmer Rouge security chief Comrade Duch for 30 years.

Although this week’s hearing is procedural rather than evidential, genocide researcher Youk Chhang says it is no less important for that.

“Case Two the most important for me," he told RFI. "I think also for many other survivors as well because we all know these four [defendants] – they have no acknowledgement of what happened. They put all the blame on their subordinates, and they blame others. So I think that’s important that we want to hear what they have to say.”

Whether or not the elderly defendants choose to speak during their trial which is expected to last two years, Monday is profoundly significant for Cambodia.