Khmer Rouge Officials Face Trial
Prosecutors trying senior Khmer Rouge officials made their first indictment in July 2007, charging Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, who ran the notorious Tuol Sleng prison where some 14,000 people were tortured and killed, with crimes against humanity. In September 2007, Nuon Chea, who was second-in-command to Pol Pot, was arrested and charged with war crimes. The first trial began in February 2009 in Phnom Penh, with Kaing Guek Eav as the defendant. He was convicted him of war crimes and crimes against humanity in July 2010 and sentenced 35 years in prison. He will only spend 19 years in prison, having already served 16 years.
In July 2008, Unesco, the cultural arm of the United Nations, designated the Preah Vihear temple, which sits on the Cambodian side of the Cambodian-Thai border, as a UN World Heritage Site. The move stirred nationalist emotions on both sides and fueled the tension between the countries. Both countries moved troops to disputed land near the temple. Skirmishing broke out between Cambodian and Thai troops in October 2008, and two Cambodian soldiers were killed.
Bloodshed at the border between Cambodia and Thailand near the site of the 11th-century Khmer temple complex continued in 2010, prompting the prime minister to call the exchanges of artillery and machine gun fire "a real war."
In September 2010, the UN-backed tribunal indicted four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge on charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and murder. The defendants are Ieng Sary, former foreign minister; Ieng Thirith, former social welfare minister and the wife of Ieng Sary; Khieu Samphan, former head of state; and Nuon Chea, who was arrested in 2007. While the conviction of Duch was considered a milestone for the tribunal, the indictment of these figures is considered more significant considering the rank of the defendants. The trial began in November 2011. Ieng Sary died in March 2013 during his trial. The case against his wife, Ieng Thirith, had previously been suspended.
Because of the glacial pace of the proceedings, the case against the remaining defendants, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, was divided into two trials. One covered the mass purge of Phnom Penh and other cities in an attempt to create an agrarian society; the other focuses on genocide. In August 2014, Khieu Samphan, 83, and Nuon Chea, 88, were found guilty of crimes against humanity and received a life sentence. The conviction and sentence seemed to be a disappointment for family members of victims given the age of the defendants and the uncertainty that the trial of genocide would be seen to completion.