Cambodia’s Day of Remembrance is celebrated each year on May 20, a date marking the Khmer Rouge’s first wave of mass killings. More than 1.7 million Cambodians—one fourth of the population—died during the regime’s rule from April 17, 1975, to January 6, 1979.
Proceedings of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), an ad hoc Cambodian court with international participation, remain ongoing. The court is prosecuting two categories of alleged perpetrators: Senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those believed to be most responsible for grave violations of national and international law. The court has secured eight indictments and three convictions: Kaing Guek Eav, commandant of the Tuol Sleng prison, for crimes against humanity relating to more than 15,000 deaths, and Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity.
As we remember the victims of Khmer Rouge, AIPR also acknowledges the important work of the ECCC and similar structures for justice. According to AIPR Academic Programs Director Dr. James Waller:
A failure to seek truth, and ultimately justice, for previous crimes can lead to lingering distrust and, at worst, a recurrence of violence in post-conflict states. For this reason, transitional justice efforts remain critical to closing the societal wounds mass atrocities leave behind, and bolstering prevention in the future.