Khmer Rouge victims seek cash damages and to honour their dead

13 January 2015 by Julia Wallace and Kuch Naren, Phnom Penh (Cambodia)

Chum Mey and Bou Meng spend a large part of the day, every day, sitting across from each other. The two elderly Cambodian men are among only a handful who survived a stint in the hellish S-21 prison, where over 12,000 people were jailed, tortured and sent to their deaths in a killing field outside Phnom Penh.

People wait in line to see the opening statements of Case 002 at the ECCC on 23 November 2011. Copyright Flickr/krtribunal
Image caption: 
People wait in line to see the opening statements of Case 002 at the ECCC on 23 November 2011. Copyright Flickr/krtribunal

Now, from their competing booths at the prison, today a tourist attraction, they recount memories of their incarcerated lives to visitors. Selling their autobiographies to make a living, both are self-styled spokesmen for victims’ rights. But they are also, if not rivals, deeply wary of each other and approach their status from very different points of view.

Bou Meng was at the forefront of recent protests from several hundred victims who are angry at the UN-backed Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) and seek cash reparations for their suffering, not just the “collective and moral” reparations envisioned by the tribunal.

Chum Mey sees this as pointless grandstanding. He says he has long since come to terms with the fact that the court cannot pay him. “Reparations doesn’t mean monetary stuff, but justice is reparation and reparation is justice,” he tells IJT.

Demand for cash damages

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