Thousands protest in Cambodia over Khmer Rouge denial

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, June 9 (UPI) -- Protesters gathered across Cambodia Sunday demanding the vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party apologize for denying Khmer Rouge regime crimes.

The Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, when the regime was toppled by Vietnam, aided by many Khmer Rouge defectors. Under Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, Cambodians were forced into rural agricultural camps where, by some estimates, as many as 3 million people were executed or died of disease and starvation.


Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, suggested the Khmer Rouge would have torn down Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh before its stalwarts fled, instead of leaving it as evidence of war crimes. He said the Vietnamese must have manufactured evidence.

At least 10,000 survivors from the Khmer Rouge regime gathered at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh in a peaceful protest to demand an apology from Sokha, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Chhum Mey, president of the Victims Association of Democratic Kampuchea and Tuol Sleng prison survivor, organized one of the protests.

"We ask Kem Sokha to apologize to the victims at Tuol Sleng prison because his remarks bring back the suffering of Cambodian people once again and insult the souls of millions of Cambodian people who were cruelly and unfairly killed during the regime," he said.


A special session of the Legislature last week made it illegal to deny Khmer Rouge atrocities.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the alleged recording of Sokha denying the atrocities was a fake.

"Kem Sokha has not made any mistake, so he will not apologize," he told Xinhua. "He has never denied the atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime or at Tuol Sleng prison. His parents had also been killed during the regime."

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