The UN-backed trial of the top surviving members of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime has finally got under way in Phnom Penh. The four defendants include the now 84-year-old Nuon Chea, or Brother Number 2, the chief ideologist behind Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” revolution.
The defendants are charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Also on trial is the former President Khieu Samphan, ex-Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, a former Social Affairs Minister.
The Khmer Rouge period from 1975–1979, under the rule of Pol Pot’s Communist party saw Cambodia renamed Democratic Kampuchea.
Almost a quarter of the country’s population died as a Marxist ‘utopia’ was imposed through force.
Survivors never saw Pol Pot himself stand trial. As conflict with Vietnam deepened, his government collapsed. He died in 1998 while under house arrest by a succeeding Khmer Rouge faction.
Some two million Cambodians were killed either by political execution, starvation or forced labour.