Two leading khmer rouge figures recently resurfaced in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh. In the 1970s, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea stood shoulder-to-shoulder with now-deceased Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. They carried out radical agrarian reforms that emptied Cambodia's cities. More than 1 million people perished from starvation, forced labor, and execution.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a onetime Khmer Rouge cadre, initially welcomed the two, apparently agreeing with them to "let bygones be bygones." That brought an outcry from foreign governments and human rights groups. Hun Sen changed tunes, asserting that the Khmer Rouge's crimes against humanity still required a trial.
Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea have since returned to a town near the Thai border run by former Khmer Rouge officials. They won't easily be seized by the government or by international bodies intent on trying them.
Plans for a trial should move ahead regardless. The United Nations is laying the groundwork for such a tribunal, along the lines of those in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Cambodia would be better off if the crimes perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge were dealt with publicly and conclusively. The whole world is better off demanding this action, whatever its practical difficulties.