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Khmer Rouge Leaders May Be Charged

April 26, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Two former Khmer Rouge leaders who may be summoned to testify at the trial of one of their comrades could themselves be charged, a military court official said Monday.

Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, members of the guerrilla group’s inner circle, have so far escaped justice for their alleged roles in genocidal activities when the group held power in the late 1970s. As many as 2 million Cambodians are believed to have died from execution, starvation, disease or overwork during the rule of the Maoist-inspired group.

Ta Mok, their notoriously brutal military commander, is the only Khmer Rouge leader under arrest. Others are free, although experts believe them equally culpable for the genocide.

Military prosecutor Sao Sok said Monday that Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea ``could be charged with killing and property damage.″

``Nothing has been officially done,″ he said. ``I am waiting for the findings and request of the investigating judge for them to be formally charged.″

He did not specify whether the two men will be charged in connection with the pending trial of Ta Mok, who was arrested at the beginning of March, or in a separate case. Ta Mok is facing charges under an anti-terrorism act.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen declared in a television interview Friday that former senior Khmer Rouge officials Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea would ``unavoidably″ be summoned before a court to face charges, but added that such a move was at the discretion of the courts.

Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan surrendered to the government late last year and have been living freely since then in the town of Pailin, in the northwestern part of the country. Pailin, a former guerrilla stronghold, is treated as a semiautonomous province by the government and administered by former guerrillas.

A group of U.N. experts advised holding an international tribunal outside Cambodia to try the former guerrillas for crimes against humanity, saying that Cambodian courts lacked the capacity and freedom from political influence to conduct a fair trial.

Hun Sen, however, insisted on having such cases handled by Cambodian courts, but recently agreed that foreign judges and prosecutors could participate.

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