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Kang Kek Iew aka Duch best known for heading the Khmer Rouge special branch and running the infamous Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison camp in Phnom Penh had his sentence extended to life in prison - Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia photo


Theary Seng's mother was missing and would never return. She was murdered by the Khmer Rouge who also killed her father - Center for Justice and Reconciliation photo


Theary C. Seng Founding President Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia met with the press to announce her withdraw from the Khmer Rouge Tribunal proceedings - - www.nationalradio.com - photo


Theary Seng, Withdraws Her Civil Party Status and Denounces ECCC as “Irredeemable Political Farce” - Center for Justice and Reconciliation photo






Theary Seng was a prisoner of the Khmer Rouge. She slept next to her mother when the soldiers with wet ropes came to take her away. Seng was awakened but her mother calmed her signifying not to worry. The next morning her mother was missing and would never return. She was murdered by the Khmer Rouge who also killed her father. She and her brothers were without parents and left to fend for themselves


PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Thursday February 09, 2012


Theary Seng was born in Phnom Penh in early 1971. Under the Khmer Rouge, she lived in Svay Rieng province bordering Vietnam, where the killings were most intense and where she spent five months in prison. The Khmer Rouge killed both of her parents.

At a screening for the documentary Facing Genocide Seng recalled the night when she was 4-year-old that soldieries with wet ropes entered the quarters where she slept next to her mother. She was awakened and asked her mother what did they want. Her mother replied never mind although she knew what they were there for.

The following morning Seng awoke to find her mother missing. At first she thought nothing of it as the elders usually left early to do work for the Khmer Rouge. Later she realized that her mother would never return. The young child and her brothers were without parents as the Khmer Rouge previously had murdered her father.

She and her surviving family trekked across the border for Thailand in Nov. 1979 and emigrated to the U.S. one year later. Since 1995, Seng has been in Cambodia volunteering with various labor and human rights groups. In January 2004, she moved permanently to live and work in her country of birth. Of choice, home is now again Cambodia and she has encountered numerous problems with the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in her efforts to bring justice for the victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Recently Kang Kek Iew aka Duch best known for heading the Khmer Rouge special branch and running the infamous Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison camp in Phnom Penh had his sentence extended to life in prison. He is the first Khmer Rouge leader to be tried by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the crimes of the regime; he originally was convicted of crimes against humanity, murder, and torture for his role in the Cambodian Holocaust and sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment.

Seng's story and experience are real. She has personally felt and been apart in one of histories greatest injustices. She studied law at Michigan University and continued her education at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in the nation's capitol of Washington D.C. Though educated, articulate and experienced she is largely ignored by the Cambodian government and the Tribunal which has refused to value her words.

It was apparent that whatever Seng had to say would not have any effect in the manner in which the trail has been conducted which has been shrouded in mystery, corruption and government interference.

In November 2011 Seng announced to the media that she was withdrawing from being involved in the court proceedings which caused quite a stir among the media with the following press release from her organization Center for Justice and Reconciliation.

For a period of six years, Ms. Seng was the "poster child" for the genocide and a strong, articulate voice (spanning the national-international spectrum) as victim and opinion-maker in supporting the ECCC despite its serious flaws. She believed the ECCC to be necessary as a "court of law" in catalyzing benefits in the "court of public opinion" and viewed these benefits to outweigh the deep problems of political interference, UN apathy, corruption, incompetence, etc.

Within recent months, the scale has tipped for her. These compounded, viciously intractable, toxic shenanigans are threatening to transform the real but still fragile embryonic benefits into irreversible cynicism, the worst legacy imaginable for an already distrusting, mistrusting, long-suffering people. Consequently, Ms. Seng no longer wishes to have any legal association with this ECCC which is mocking the dead, her and other victims and embedding impunity; she cannot do otherwise but to withdraw her status as civil party in Case 002 as well as the appeal of her civil party application in Cases 003 and 004.

Moreover, she denounces this ECCC as a political farce, an irreversible sham of extraordinary perversion in denying justice to victims, exploiting their suffering, soiling the memories of their loved ones and embedding cynicism in an already fragile population living in paranoia, mistrust and distrust.

Following her resignation from the Tribunal proceedings Seng held a press conference that day. Her announcement to the media caused quite commotion, "What will you do," she was asked.

Seng replied that she will write her book but remain involved with her words and continue to voice her opinion. Since that time she has issued press releases. The following is her most recent press release following the decision the change Duch's sentence.

Phnom Penh, 6 February 2012

On the advent of the Duch verdict on 23 July 2010, we, the Civil Parties of Orphans Class—a sub-group of the Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia (www.akrvictims.org)—launched a public campaign for the “ECCC Inventory and Provincial Learning Centers as Part of [our] Right to Reparations for All KR Victims”.

By way of reminder, we have periodically re-released the public statement. Excerpt:

“After initial review of the ECCC website and communications with ECCC officials, it is our understanding that the ECCC has at minimum these basic items of inventory for its 500 personnel (350 of these Cambodian):

· 24 vehicles · 200 desktop and laptop computers

· 25 photocopy machines

· 50 printers and scanners

· Telecommunications and communications systems (property of UN, according to Art. 1.3 of Supplementary Agreement Re Utilities, Facilities and Services)

· Air conditioners

· Televisions, screens, LCD projectors, video-conferencing equipments

· Transcription equipments

· Video cameras

· Office desks, chairs, tables, cabinets, bookshelves”

On 26 July 2010, the ECCC Trial Chamber’s verdict offered in full this reparation: “to compile and post on the ECCC’s official website all statements of apology and acknowledgements of responsibility made by [Duch]” (our emphasis). Unsurprisingly, the hollowness and insensitivity of this reparation triggered a public outrage! (It raised the rhetorical questions of: How many victims own a computer? And of those who own a computer, how many have access to the internet?)

On 26 June 2011, we issued a similar demand with an open letter to the Lead Co-Lawyers and the 40 intermediary lawyers representing the civil parties to advocate at the ECCC hearings on reparations. We acknowledged the scope of our demands (excerpt):

“It is also our understanding that (i) the Chambers may award only “collective and moral reparations to Civil Parties”, (ii) Article 39 of the ECCC Law [promulgated 27 Oct. 2004] to “be awarded against, and be borne by convicted persons” not to exclude the Cambodian government and the United Nations, parties to the laws and agreements establishing the ECCC in the provision of this collective and moral reparation as owners of the inventory (see ECCC Law Art. 44.1, 44.2, 44.4 New; Internal Rules 9.3 New), and (iii) any sensitive materials and data can be easily removed and protected before the handing over of the inventory.

In addition, we demand that provincial Learning Centers-Memorials be established in each of the 24 provinces of Cambodia as part of our right to reparation and the legacy of memorializing and education. With all due respect, Phnom Penh was not the only crime scene; memorializing and resources need to include and respect the 85% of Cambodian victims who reside in the provinces.”

A few days after this open letter of 26 June 2011, the Elite Club of ECCC officials (civil party lawyers, administrators, judges) exclusively met—as presidents and representatives of victims associations do not matter in this high-minded discussion on reparations as we can’t possible know what we want (sic!), thus we were not invited—and decided to seal shut any possible interpretation of government and UN responsibility.

This Elite Club amended the above Article 39 of the ECCC Law, stripping it of the above quoted language, with the document falsely stating that it was last amended on 26 August 2007 (which opened up the possibility that I made up the above quoted language). As it stands now, the full Article 39 reads:

“Those who have committed any crime as provided in Articles 3 new, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 shall be sentenced to a prison term from five years to life imprisonment.

In addition to imprisonment, the Extraordinary Chamber of the trial court may order the confiscation of personal property, money, and real property acquired unlawfully or by criminal conduct.

The confiscated property shall be returned to the State.

” The vacuity of past discussions of the ECCC Elite Club on victims’ reparations was given the final seal of approval with the ECCC Supreme Court Chamber’s summary decision of 3 February 2012, in para. 67: “that awards are borne exclusively by convicted persons”, shielding the government and the UN of any responsibility.

Here, I will not go into the other serious concerns raised by the 3 Feb. 2012 final decision on Duch, except to say that: We the victims and we the larger Cambodian society have to pay an extremely high price for the life sentence given to Duch. The life sentence fits with the gravity of the crimes and should have been given at the first instance without the high drama for such a simple case as this one where the defendant confessed and cooperated, mounds of culpable documents existed and Tuol Sleng survivors testified; that’s not the point.

The price we have to pay comes in the serious consequences in the: (i) Supreme Court Chamber’s erasure of the illegality of Duch’s pre-trial detention at the Cambodian Military Court; (ii) SCC’s uneasy language on personal jurisdiction in light of the imbroglio of Cases 003/4, stating that “[w]hether an accused is a senior leader or one of the most responsible are exclusively policy decisions for which the Co-Investigating Judges and Co-Prosecutors, and not the Chambers, are accountable” where history, resources and power are not on our side; and (iii) making Duch the sole scapegoat of the Khmer Rouge regime and crimes.

By any interpretation, this is manipulation of victims. This is exploitation of our suffering. This is disempowerment whereby the tools of “justice” are used to perpetrate injustice.

The danger now is that it comes with UN insignia. It comes with Japanese Yens and high-minded rhetoric of western ambassadors for the vacuity. It doesn’t matter how many billions the western donors and Japan continue to spend on “rule of law” via the various aid agencies, because what they are embracing now at the KRT will undo any benefits they may have produced. We are talking about the embedding of dark mentalities by the KRT with UN insignia which will awash the larger society for years and decades to come, long after the KRT has closed its gates on its military-situated compound and the UN has left for another genocide-chasing mission.

Theary C. Seng

Founding President

Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia

Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia: www.arkvictims.org

ECCC Law (Oct. 2004): http://www.eccc.gov.kh/sites/default/files/legal-documents/KR_Law_as_amended_27_Oct_2004_Eng.pdf

Public Demand for ECCC Inventory, Provincial Learning Centers: http://www.thearyseng.com/component/content/article/104-campaign-for-eccc-inventory-provincial-learning-centers/242-campaign-for-closing-order-booklets-eccc-inventory-24-provincial-learning-centers-memorials

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