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Cambodia Moves To Outlaw Denial Of Khmer Rouge Atrocities

Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge-era Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh in 2011.
AFP/Getty Images
Cambodian survivors of the Khmer Rouge-era Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, at the Choeung Ek killing fields memorial in Phnom Penh in 2011.

Cambodian lawmakers on Friday approved a bill making it a crime to deny that atrocities were committed by the Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s, echoing laws against Holocaust denial in Germany and more than a dozen other European countries.

The bill passed the assembly in Phnom Penh by a unanimous vote, but only because of the absence of opposition parliamentarians, who were expelled after forming a new party.

The Associated Press writes:

"Hun Sen, who has been prime minister since 1985, called for the new law after a leading opposition lawmaker reportedly suggested that some of the evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities was fabricated by Vietnam, whose army invaded to oust the Khmer Rouge in 1979."

Hun Sen, handpicked by the occupying Vietnamese as leader as they withdrew from Cambodia, was once allied with the Khmer Rouge that killed millions by starvation and overwork from 1975-1979.

"Not recognizing the crimes constitutes an insult to the souls of those who died during the [Khmer Rouge] regime, and brings suffering to the surviving family members of the victims," government lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the National Assembly.

The bill was approved just days after the Khmer Rouge regime's two top surviving leaders apologized for atrocities committed in their names. As we reported last week, Nuon Chea, the chief lieutenant of Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan, who acted as head of state for the Maoist regime, both on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity, expressed remorse to families of some of the victims who died in the country's "killing fields."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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