Friday, October 07, 2005

At 78 years-old, Keo Vorng learns again what the world “justice” means

CAMBODGE SOIR Nº2376

Thursday 29 September 2005 [TRANSLATION]

By Kong Sothanarith


Keo Vorng is seated in a classroom and listens attentively to a western professor, who lectures in English and is assisted by a Cambodian translator. Despite his old age (78 years old), he catches all the words. Keo Vorng’s hearing abilities are as good as the ones of a young man and, with his ears wide open, he follows with interest the training provided by the DC-Cam on the future Khmer Rouge tribunal. Staring at the white board, the old man seeks in the diagrams and words written down the answer to a question which has been haunting him for many years: why his younger brother and all his family were killed by the Khmer Rouges?

As 2000 other persons, Keo Vorng takes part in this DC-Cam’s training on the proceedings established to try the former Khmer rouge leaders. With his white and grey hair, his age written on his face, he is certainly the oldest of the pupils, but he is determined, his look is focused. The nervous moves of his legs only show his anxiety. Today, Keo Vorng longs impatiently for the court to be set up.

The DC-Cam’s course, which lasted two weeks in August, did not put an end to his questions. But, at least, it helped him understand how justice should work and what a fair trial could bring. “Thanks to this training, I have understood the concept of equality of rights, of politics and citizenship. I have also learned about the functioning of a court, the role of the prosecutor, and the role of the lawyer, says Keon Vorng. Now, I am really impatient to see this court being set up. We have been waiting for it for too long. I want to obtain justice for my brother and his family, and want to know for which reasons they have been killed.”

Cheng An, a former journalist and younger brother of Keon Vorng, joined the “maquis” along with the Khmer Rouge to fight the Lonnolism. He was promoted afterwards Industry Minister under the Pol Pot regime. Because of this position, he had to cut all relationships with his family. “However, from time to time, he was going through our home village in a car. He stopped for a few moments, drunk some coconut milk and spoke seldom. He did not dare staying with us for too long. Shortly after one of those visits, I learned he was dead.” remembers Keo Vorng. He was also himself first on the side of the Khmer Rouge. During the fights between the Khmer Rouge and the troops of on Nol, he was even the chief of Noreay commune, in the Chhouk district, in Kampot province, which was then under the control of Pol Pot’s combatants. Today, he wants to understand what drove the Khmer Rouge leaders to commit the genocide.

After the ultimate surrender of the Khmer Rouge of Anlong Veng, in 1998, Keo Vorng, still hoped to find his brother alive or, at least, his children. He went to this last bastion of the Khmer Rouge to look for signs of life, in vain His younger brother and all his family had been killed. And for Keo Vorng, it is time for justice to be done.

“Before I close my eyes forever, I want this special court to open and I want to be able to attend freely the trials, since they must be public. I want to hear what the former Khmer Rouge leaders will say. Which reasons will they give for such massacre? What is at stake for me is not revenge, but I wish to obtain compensation in order to finally process with the religious rituals and to build a stupa in honor of the soul of my brother and his family”, asserts the old man.

Despite his old age, Keo Vorng, is still in good health and walks as a young man. But he is afraid of never seeing the tribunal being set up, after so many years of expectations: “ I don’t expect the tribunal to be established shortly. But I hope that I will still be alive when it is set up, to be able to file myself a complaint against the former leaders.”

Nowadays, Keo Vorng, a Funcipec’s supporter, wishes to give up politics. He prefers to keep on fulfiling his functions ofachar” of his village’s pagoda and to dedicate the end of his life to praying. A way of finding of bit of appeasement, while waiting for a tribunal stuck between financial issues and conflict of interests.


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