Justice for Cambodia, Too

Justice for Iraqis who endured Saddam Hussein's brutal reign is now in sight. Charges such as genocide were leveled against the ousted dictator Thursday.

But justice has not been so swift for another nation that suffered a similar despotic regime. The world has largely forgotten the 13 million poor Cambodians who've waited a quarter-century to see former Khmer Rouge leaders put on trial.

Most of the top leaders are still alive and free in Cambodia, except Pol Pot, who died in 1998. Their ultra-Maoist communist regime was responsible for the death of 1.5 million of their countrymen between 1975 and 1979.

The trial delay is probably because the prime minister, Hun Sen, and others around him are former, low-level Khmer Rouge officials. They don't want their pasts opened to scrutiny. (Hun Sen fled to Vietnam during an internal Khmer Rouge purge and was later put in power by communist Vietnam after it invaded Cambodia and ousted Pol Pot in 1979.)

Hun Sen has resisted international pressure for such trials. But last year, the UN and Cambodia signed a draft agreement to set up a special tribunal. It would try five to 10 of those "most responsible" for the genocide.

That process, however, was delayed by the mixed results of a parliamentary election last July that left Hun Sen in power but officially without a government. This week, Cambodia's two rival parties signed a powersharing deal ending the deadlock.

The government should immediately ratify the draft agreement. In addition, potential donors such as Japan, China, and the US should help fund the estimated $60 million cost of the trials.

These trials would finally bring justice to Cambodians and light to a dark period of the 20th century that was as barbarous as that under the long rule of the Hussein regime.

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