After 12 years in operation, the UN-backed Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia on Friday delivered what will likely be its final verdict. But away from the courtroom, some survivors of one of the 20th Century’s greatest horrors are ambivalent about the tribunal’s legacy, reports George Wright from Phnom Penh.
Like many 60-year-old men in rural Cambodia, Srei Than can often be found relaxing and drinking beer with friends outside his home. But when he locks eyes with Soy Sen, who lives a short motorcycle ride away down a dusty lane, he quickly looks away.
“Whenever I see him, he walks away,” Sen says.
There’s good reason for this.
In 1974, when Sen was just 14, Khmer Rouge guerrillas took control of his hometown in Takeo province, to the south of the capital Phnom Penh. It was a year before they would topple the US-backed government and unleash a four-year reign of terror across the country.
Sen was sent to Kraing Ta Chan prison by the radical communists. He believes it was down to his father being a local official in the district they had just captured.
Upon entering the prison, Sen quickly realised the horrors that were unfolding there, including murder, torture and cannibalism.
“I was climbing a palm tree in the afternoon and from the top I could see two children being taken away,” Sen told the tribunal in 2015.
“They usually waited for me to bring down the palm juice, but that day I heard… the sound of the cracking of children against a…