Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cambodia marks end of Khmer Rouge regime

Phnom Penh (dpa) - Cambodia celebrated the anniversary Saturday of the ouster of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime by a Vietnamese invasion on Jan 7, 1979. There were speeches and renewed calls for trial of the leaders of one of the most bloody sprees of the last century.

President of the dominant ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP), Chea Sim, told nearly 10,000 party members, diplomats and senior members of its coalition partner, the royalist Funcinpec party, that Cambodia's tragedy and a subsequent trial of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge's Democratic Kampuchea government was vital for not only his nation but the rest of the world.

"The CPP supports the efforts of the royal government and the U.N. to establish an extraordinary chambers under Cambodian law to try the crimes committed under the Democratic Kampuchea regime," Chea Sim said.

"The success of this process will not only provide justice for Cambodian people who were victims but will also help strengthening the foundations for deterring such crimes from happening again, either in Cambodia or other countries."

He praised the international community for its aid efforts as impoverished Cambodia, which lost up to 2 million people to starvation, disease, overwork, torture and executions during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign and emerged from the ultra-Maoist's extreme experiment with its infrastructure almost completely destroyed.

Teachers, doctors, dentists and other skilled professionals had been almost totally eliminated as the Khmer Rouge purged them in a mad drive to turn Cambodia into a classless agrarian utopia.

Vietnamese troops marched into Phnom Penh and overthrew the Khmer Rouge 26 years ago, beginning what some still claim was a period of Vietnamese occupation but that the CPP hail as a day of liberation from the Khmer Rouge, who continued to fight a guerilla war from the jungles until 1996 when the CPP persuaded its leaders to join the government.

The Vietnamese and then the rest of the world have poured billions into Cambodia's recovery from nearly three decades of civil war, an act Chea Sim said had made Cambodia profoundly grateful, though there was more work to be done.

"We do hope that the international community will continue to provide invaluable assistance in contributing to strengthening peace, democracy and development in Cambodia," he said.

A joint trial by the Cambodian government and the U.N. of now ageing and ailing former Khmer Rouge leaders continues to grind slowly forward, though advocates of a trial continue to warn that it must take place soon or risk never being held at all, as most of the now-elderly leading figures continue to grow old in freedom.

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