Monday, November 19, 2007



Last Updated: Monday, 19 November 2007, 09:08 GMT


Top Khmer Rouge leader detained

Khieu Samphan is the fifth Khmer Rouge official to be detained
Police in Cambodia have arrested Khieu Samphan, the Khmer Rouge's former head of state, and taken him to a UN-backed genocide tribunal.
The elderly ex-leader was taken from a hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh, to face a panel of investigating judges.

He is the fifth person to be targeted by the court, set up to bring surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge to the dock.

More than one million people are thought to have died between 1975 and 1979 under the brutal Maoist regime.

Close confidant

Khieu Samphan's arrest had been widely expected

A former guerrilla fighter, he became the president of Democratic Kampuchea - as Cambodia was then known - after the Khmer Rouge came to power. He was a close confidant of leader Pol Pot.

He has long claimed that his position was ceremonial, and in a recently published book he denied responsibility for policies to starve people and orders to carry out mass killings.

Last week, amid reports that his detention was imminent, he was flown to hospital in Phnom Penh after apparently suffering a stroke.

Early on Monday, police entered the hospital and drove the former leader to the special courts to appear before a panel of investigating judges.

"An initial appearance will be held today during which he will be informed of the charges which have been brought against him," a tribunal statement said.

Delay fears

Khieu Samphan's arrest completes the initial round-up of suspects by the tribunal, which was established last year after decades of delay.

Former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and wife Ieng Thirith, the social affairs minister, were arrested last week and charged with crimes against humanity.

Pol Pot's second-in command, Nuon Chea, and Kang Kek Ieu - known as Duch - the head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, are also facing similar charges.

Their trials are expected to begin next year.

Under the Khmer Rouge, more than one million people died from starvation or overwork as leaders strove to create an agrarian utopia.

Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-classes were tortured and executed in special centres.

Khmer Rouge founder Pol Pot died in 1998 and many fear that delays to the judicial process could mean that more of the regime's elderly leaders are never brought to justice.

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TRIBUNAL SUSPECTS
Prison chief Duch (or Kang Kek Ieu), charged in July with crimes against humanity
Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, charged in September with war crimes and crimes against humanity

Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, charged in November with war crimes and crimes against humanity

Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, charged in November with crimes against humanity

Head of State Khieu Samphan, arrested in November, yet to be charged

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WHO WERE THE KHMER ROUGE?

Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979
Founded and led by Pol Pot, (above) who died in 1998
Abolished religion, schools and currency in a bid to create agrarian utopia
Brutal regime that did not tolerate dissent
More than a million people thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution

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Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime

More than a million people died under the four-year regime
The Khmer Rouge was the ruling party in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, but during this short time it was responsible for one of the worst mass killings of the 20th Century.
The brutal regime claimed the lives of more than a million people - and some estimates say up to 2.5 million perished.

Under the Marxist leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge tried to take Cambodia back to the Middle Ages, forcing millions of people from the cities to work on communal farms in the countryside.

But this dramatic attempt at social engineering had a terrible cost, and whole families died from execution, starvation, disease and overwork.

Communist philosophy

The Khmer Rouge had its origins in the 1960s, as the armed wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea - the name the Communists used for Cambodia.

Based in remote jungle and mountain areas in the north-east of the country, the group initially made little headway.

The Khmer Rouge expanded their reach from the remote north-east
But after a right-wing military coup toppled head of state Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970, the Khmer Rouge entered into a political coalition with him and began to attract increasing support.

In a civil war that continued for nearly five years, it gradually increased its control in the countryside.

Khmer Rouge forces finally took over the capital, Phnom Penh, and therefore the nation as a whole in 1975.

During his time in the remote north-east, Pol Pot had been influenced by the surrounding hill tribes, who were self-sufficient in their communal living, had no use for money and were "untainted" by Buddhism.

When he came to power, he and his henchmen quickly set about transforming Cambodia - now re-named Kampuchea - into what they hoped would be an agrarian utopia.

Declaring that the nation would start again at "Year Zero", Pol Pot isolated his people from the rest of the world and set about emptying the cities, abolishing money, private property and religion, and setting up rural collectives.

Anyone thought to be an intellectual of any sort was killed. Often people were condemned for wearing glasses or knowing a foreign language.

Pol Pot led the brutal regime, but died without being brought to justice
Hundreds of thousands of the educated middle-classes were tortured and executed in special centres.

The most notorious of these centres was the S21 jail in Phnom Penh, where more than 17,000 men, women and children were imprisoned during the regime's four years in power.

Hundreds of thousands of others died from disease, starvation or exhaustion as members of the Khmer Rouge - often just teenagers themselves - forced people to do back-breaking work.

Opening up

The Khmer Rouge government was finally overthrown in 1979 by invading Vietnamese troops, after a series of violent border confrontations.

The higher echelons of the party retreated to remote areas of the country, where they remained active for a while but gradually became less and less powerful.

In the years that followed, as Cambodia began the process of reopening to the international community, the full horrors of the regime became apparent.

Survivors told their stories to shocked audiences, and in the 1980s the Hollywood movie The Killing Fields brought the plight of the Khmer Rouge victims to worldwide attention.

Pol Pot was denounced by his former comrades in a show trial in July 1997, and sentenced to house arrest in his jungle home.

But less than a year later he was dead - denying the millions of people who were affected by this brutal regime the chance to bring him to justice.

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