Keep or cremate Khmer Rouge victims?
KAMPONG CHNANG, Cambodia -- Prime Minister Hun
Sen has said he will call a referendum to decide whether
to conserve or cremate the skulls and bones of Khmer Rouge
victims that are kept in piles as monuments throughout Cambodia.
Hun Sen has rejected requests to destroy them and says he
supports maintaining the remains as monuments to the atrocities
that occurred from 1975 to 1979.
Many Cambodians believe that souls of the tortured continue
to linger because their remains have not received a proper
cremation according to Buddhist rites.
Ek: A stupa or towerlike Buddhist
shrine of some 8,000 skulls erected
in 1988 and encased in glass. It is
at the Khmer Rouge's primary killing
field for Phnom Penh
museum: Hundreds of skulls on public
display at the former torture center
of the Khmer Rouge. At least 14,000
people were incarcerated here.
Hun Sen says King Norodom Sihanouk regularly forwards letters
to him from people requesting the destruction of the victim's
bones, which take random shape and form depending on villagers
who have discovered the remains.
"We will do a referendum after the tribunal to decide whether
to maintain the remains as monuments or take them down to do
cremations," says Hun Sen. "At this time, I cannot definitely
agree" to the cremations.
In February, Cambodia's Constitutional Council rejected a
draft bill to try surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. Hun Sen said
the tribunal draft law will be debated a second time by the
Cabinet before June.
Following Cabinet approval, the National Assembly will have
to consider changes made to the draft law. It will then need
the approval of the Constitutional Council and the king.
A deal with the United Nations on convening the tribunal
has yet to be reached.
About two million people died during the reign of the
The Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot who died almost three years
ago, came to power in 1975 after winning a civil war. The
regime emptied Cambodia's cities, forcing the entire population
into Maoist-style farming collectives. Starvation, disease
and systematic executions claimed the lives of about one Cambodian
The Khmer Rouge were not entirely defeated after the Vietnamese
invasion in 1979, and fought a guerrilla war against successive
governments until 1996, when the leadership began breaking
up. The movement was finished by the end of 1998.
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Press contributed to this report.
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