Students demand Chinese apology for Khmer Rouge
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Cambodian students are demanding an official apology from China for their support of the genodical 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime.
Their call came on the eve of a state visit to Cambodia by Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian.
Chi is due to arrive in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh on Feb 13 on a five-day visit as part of a regional tour that includes Vietnam, Laos and Nepal.
Members of the Democratic Front of Khmer Students (DFKS) began their protests Monday in front of the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh.
DFKS representatives attempted to deliver a letter addressed to Chinese President Jiang Zemin that alleged Chinese responsibility for the Khmer Rouge genocide that claimed the lives of approximately 1.7 million Cambodians from starvation, overwork and execution.
Chinese Embassy officials refused to accept the letter, which also demanded compensation of $100,000 for each victim of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The protests are similar to those encountered by Chinese President Jiang Zemin during a state visit to Cambodia in November last year.
According to Un Sam An, Secretary General of the Students Movement for Democracy, a rival anti-Beijing student group, Cambodia's demands for an apology from China are entirely reasonable.
"We now know through the recent publication of the memoirs of former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew that China supplied the Khmer Rouge with more than a billion dollars in aid during the 1970s and 1980s," An said.
"We can blame China for the deaths of more than one million Cambodians."
The demands of the student groups are supported by Cambodian political analyst Dr. Lao Mong Hay, Executive Director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy. "China owes Cambodia an apology," Lao said.
"China had a hand in the [Khmer Rouge] massacres ... the presence of [Chinese] diplomats and technocrats in Cambodia and their indifference and even exhortations to Cambodians to 'work harder' makes them culpable in the massacres."
Public sentiment in Cambodia about China's role in supporting the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime has heightened since a revelation in November last year that Chinese military personnel were directly involved in the operations of the notorious S-21 torture center in Phnom Penh where more than 14,000 people were murdered.
During his five day visit to Cambodia Chi will meet with Cambodian political leaders and is expected to sign a series of agreements boosting assistance and cooperation between Chinašs People Liberation Army and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
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