July 26, 2010 / 3:13 AM / 9 years ago

Factbox - Khmer Rouge casts lingering shadow over Cambodia

(Reuters) - The former head of a Khmer Rouge jail and torture centre will hear his fate on Monday when a war crimes tribunal gives its first verdict since the fall of a regime blamed for 1.7 million deaths in the late 1970s.

Here are some facts about the Khmer Rouge and how war-scarred Cambodia is dealing with its legacy, 31 years later.

THE KILLING FIELDS

— Pol Pot’s ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge guerrillas launched a bloody agrarian revolution in 1975, five years after King Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown in a right-wing coup.

— An estimated 1.7 million people — 21 percent of the population — were executed or died of disease, starvation or overwork over the next four years in rural labour camps.

THE FALL OF THE KHMER ROUGE

— Vietnamese troops invaded in late 1978 and installed a communist government made up mostly of former Khmer Rouge cadres, including current Prime Minister Hun Sen. Hanoi withdrew in 1989.

— Fighting continued between the government and Khmer Rouge remnants between 1979 and 1991. Millions of Cambodians remained in refugee camps during the unrest.

SLOW ROAD TO JUSTICE

— A 1991 U.N.-brokered peace pact led to elections in 1993 and the restoration of Sihanouk as a constitutional monarch.

— In August 1999, two years after Cambodia asked the United Nations and the international community to help set up a Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, the government said it wanted to maintain overall control of the court.

— The plan languished for years. Draft laws flew back and forth between Cambodia and the United Nations, and the tribunal’s legitimacy was questioned in Cambodia.

CRUNCH TIME

— The United Nations gave the go-ahead for a three-year trial in April 2005, but officials disagreed over the legalities of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the joint tribunal is known.

They finally agreed on the basic rules of the court in June 2007 and the first full trial, that of Duch, began in February 2009. Duch ran Phnom Penh’s S-21 torture and interrogation centre, where at least 14,000 died and less than a dozen survived, and will hear a verdict in his case on Monday.

ON TRIAL:

— Five senior Khmer Rouge cadres have been arrested and charged variously with crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. They are ex-president Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife Khieu Thirith, dubbed the “Khmer Rouge First Lady,” Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s deputy, and Duch.

— Pol Pot, architect of the Khmer Rouge’s “Year Zero” peasant revolution, was captured in 1997 and died in April 1998. The one-legged military chief Ta Mok died in 2006.

LIVING LEGACY:

— Thirty years after the regime fell, more than 20,000 ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers and workers are said to live freely in the country.

— Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen blasted the tribunal after an international co-prosecutor recommended five more suspects be investigated. Hun Sen said arresting more suspects could spark a civil war.

— While there is no evidence linking him to any atrocities, his government includes many former Khmer Rouge cadres.

Sources: Reuters, Cambodian Genocide Project (www.yale.edu/cgp/chron_v3.html)

Editing by Jonathan Thatcher

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