Global Policy Forum

Jailed Khmer Rouge Army Chief Hospitalized


By Sopheng Cheang

Associated Press
June 29, 2006

The former military chief of the Khmer Rouge communist movement, Ta Mok, was hospitalized Thursday with various illnesses, his lawyer said, raising doubt about whether he will ever be able to stand trial. Ta Mok, 82, has been suffering from high blood pressure, stomach pains and coughing for the past week, said the lawyer, Benson Samay. "I'm afraid that he cannot stand for trial even if he is recovered. He is so weak right now," Benson Samay said. "He cannot get up or eat food for a week already."

Ta Mok's hospitalization came as preparations to convene a U.N.-assisted Cambodian tribunal for former Khmer Rouge leaders make slow progress. Many fear that aging Khmer Rouge leaders may die before they can stand trial for crimes against humanity and genocide. Trials are expected to start in 2007. Ta Mok is one of the two former Khmer Rouge senior officials in detention awaiting trial for atrocities committed during the four-year rule of the extremist Cambodian movement in the late 1970s. The other is Kaing Khek Iev, also known as Duch, who headed the Khmer Rouge S-21 torture center in the capital Phnom Penh.

The Khmer Rouge are accused of implementing policies that led to the deaths of 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution when the group held power in 1975-79. Pol Pot, the movement's leader, died in 1998, but several of his top lieutenants still live freely in Cambodia.

Brig. Gen. Prum Sorn Thon, a Cambodian military court prosecutor who also oversees care of Ta Mok and Kaing Khek Iev, declined to give details of Ta Mok's illness. He said Ta Mok had been receiving treatment inside the military prison after he fell ill over a week ago. "But his condition did not improve, that is why we decided to send him to the hospital," he said.

Cambodian and foreign judicial officials for the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be sworn in inside the Royal Palace on July 3, the tribunal's administration office said in a statement Thursday. The United Nations and Cambodia agreed in 2003 to jointly hold trials for former Khmer Rouge leaders. Drawn-out negotiations and funding problems have led some critics to suggest that Prime Minister Hun Sen's government has intentionally stalled the court process to avoid embarrassing Khmer Rouge members who had become government backers.

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