The Supreme Court on Tuesday began a three-day hearing to re-examine a trio of cases involving disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov, who was convicted of a slew of crimes by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and is currently serving a 98-year prison sentence.
A day after four survivors delivered searing accounts of sexualized violence under the Khmer Rouge regime, the group of university students who paneled the discussion has called on the government to provide compensation to victims and reform school curricula to include more discussion of the regime’s crimes.
Their recommendations come after legal aid NGO the Cambodian Defenders Project hosted its third Women’s Hearing-—a non-judicial, truth-telling forum that enables such victims to come forward and speak about their experiences of rape and sexual abuse.
The panel, comprised of three men and three women—all university students—said that the government should “establish reparations for free counseling and other supports for survivors of gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge; enforce the law and ensure punishment for perpetrators of gender-based violence during the Khmer Rouge, and provide greater transparency around the legal process.”
The students also said that it was imperative that future generations could learn about and understand the history of the regime and, as a result, crime sites and evidence of torture should be preserved.
They also suggested that gender-based violence under the Khmer Rouge—something that was carried out largely in secret at the time and rarely spoken about afterward—be included in school curricula.
The Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is nearing the final stages of the first “mini-trial” in Case 002, also needs to speed up the process of trying remaining regime leaders and include rape, gender-based violence and forced marriage in the indictments of cases 003 and 004, they said.
Tuesday’s survivors relived horrific experiences of rape and sexual abuse before a 400-strong crowd of people, young and old.
Cambodian Defenders Project’s executive director, Sok Sam Oeun, said he too wanted to see such topics included in the education system and believed that the format of including young people in the forum would reap long-term benefits.
“I heard one old woman say that she hopes that among the people participating yesterday, that in the future, maybe some of them will become lawmakers and officials and she hopes that all those young people will prevent this country from falling down like the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said.
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