Khmer Rouge Trial Lawyers Clash

Lawyers clash at pretrial hearings in Khmer Rouge trial.


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Prosecutors take their seats at the opening of the Khmer Rouge trial, Feb. 17, 2009.

PHNOM PENH?Lawyers in the long-awaited trial of the Khmer Rouge's lead torturer clashed in court this week over whether footage shot by Vietnamese soldiers inside his notorious prison may be admitted as prosecution evidence.

The seven-minute film?shot in black and white by Vietnamese troops after they ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979?shows inmates' emaciated bodies, some still in chains, inside S-21, or Tuol Sleng, prison.

Ka Savuth, a Cambodian lawyer who is part of the team defending Kaing Guek Eav, known by the alias Duch, protested during pretrial hearings the prosecution's bid to use the films, which he described as fabricated.

Duch, now 66, served as commandant at Tuol Sleng during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 rule. On Tuesday, he sat silently as hundreds of victims crowded the court's galleries.

Defense lawyers say the investigating judges should have vetted the film, along with new witnesses and documents described as interrogation reports bearing notes allegedly written by Duch ordering the deaths of inmates.

They also cited alleged discrepancies in the film that they say indicate tampering.

Chhang Youk, director of the nonprofit Documentation Center of Cambodia, said he received the film from Vietnam and defended its neutrality and authenticity.

"Places and pictures?pictures of the prison and children, and documents regarding the deaths?aren't political. They are factual. They are not political, but are facts. We must not politicize facts," Chhang Youk said after the hearing.

On the eve of the trial, two members of the Vietnamese crew said they had also found five child survivors of S-21 hiding under piles of prisoners' clothing. One child died soon after from malnutrition, they said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh meanwhile said that Washington has now sent U.S. $1.8 million in promised aid for the trial to the United Nations, which will disburse the money.

Duch, now a born-again Christian, is accused of overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 men, women, and children at Tuol Sleng. He has expressed remorse for his actions.

The trial constitutes a landmark in this impoverished country, in which nearly everyone lost relatives, friends, or neighbors as Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, known as "brother number one," pursued his dream of an ethnically pure, agrarian utopia.

Years of wrangling

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was established in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling over legal procedure between Cambodia and the United Nations. The court will announce a start date for the trial once the witness list is settled.

The trial is widely seen as the last chance to bring the Khmer Rouge's surviving leaders to justice.

It has been called an "experiment in international justice," with domestic and foreign judges working side-by-side to try to ensure its independence.

But critics say its integrity is threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference, and many Cambodians have questioned its independence.

Only 12 people held at Tuol Sleng survived, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

Most inmates were forced to make confessions, then taken from the prison for execution at a nearby orchard called Choeung Ek.

Duch is one of five ageing senior cadres facing charges and is expected to testify against "brother number two" Nuon Chea, ex-Khmer Rouge president Khieu Samphan, and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife.

All face a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Original reporting by Leng Malyand Huy Vannak for RFA's Khmer service. Translated by Uon Chhi. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written and produced in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.

CAMBODIA TOWN FILM FETIVAL 2015 tickets now on sale GET IT NOW!

One of the key purposes of Cambodian Town Film Festival (CTTF) is to highlight the diversity of the Cambodian experience through the art of filmmaking. By specifically featuring films that deal with Cambodian social political conflicts, traditions, challenges and characters, the Festival will deepen Cambodian values and encourage new dialogue on a global scale. THE CLOCK IS COUNTING DOWN TO OUR EVENT >>>  BUY TICKETS NOW - CLICK HERE 

COLLECTOR DIGITAL ART to Honor the 40 Year Remembrance of the Khmer Rouge's invasion of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The artwork is printed on a high gloss wooden board and make a great wall art decoration. *Collector's Edition - ONLY (40) are printed and signed by the artist. BUY IT NOW (CLICK HERE) 

Angkor Wat Starry Night Reprints

Angkor Wat Starry Night Canvas Print 11x17

These are reproduction of an oil painting done by Ponnamy Kiep reprinted on a canvas with a theme inspired by Van Gogh's Starry Night.

In Remembrance of 40 Years CTFF Limited Collector's Edition Dog Tag - Only $10 - CLICK HERE

April 17, 1975 is a day all Cambodians remember. It was the day the Khmer Rouge regime overtook Phnom Penh, an event that ignited a horrific genocide that killed nearly 2 million innocent lives and affected an infinite more.

In rememberance of all those that fought for freedom, those who survived, and those we have lost, Cambodia Town Film Festival has created this Limited Collector's Edition Dog Tag.

PAULINA a film by Caylee So
Now on DVD, own this Award Winning film for only $10 - Click Here

Immersed in a vibrant world where bets and wagers are a part of everyday living, 17 year old Paulina has found herself attracted to the game; a love understood and shared by her father, Sam, and an avid community of Cambodian gamblers. Met with strong disapproval from her sister Sopheap, Paulina remains strongly tied to the community. But soon she finds herself in the midst of her father’s war with addiction, and the realities of this world is unmasked; Paulina must inevitably choose between the world she is drawn to and the life she might someday want.

Secure your VIP ticket today at www.cambodianmusicfestival.com and join us in counting down to a night full of exclusive private performances, music, and art in one of the most breathtaking venues in Laguna Beach!

$200/person - one VIP ticket gives you access to VIP Pre-Party at 7 Degrees in Laguna Beach on Friday, 7/24/15 AND reserved seating within the first ten rows at the Cambodian Music Festival in Anaheim at the Pearson Park Amphitheater on Saturday, 7/25/15.

($50/person - General admission to the Cambodian Music Festival)

**Even though you are purchasing your ticket online, you will still receive your physical ticket in the mail. Ticket must be presented at the day of the music festival to gain entry. 

Site Mailing List  Sign Guest Book  View Guest Book