PHNOM PENH: Cambodia on Friday banned the denial of atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime with a new law, a move the opposition claims is a political attack weeks ahead of national polls.
law bans statements denying crimes by the communist regime that ruled
from 1975-79 killing an estimated two million people, and carries a
sentence of up to two years in jail.
The law, similar to
legislation covering Holocaust denial in Germany and France, was
proposed by strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen after a recording emerged
of an opposition leader apparently excusing the Khmer Rouge from
responsibility for running a notorious torture prison during their rule.
recording, posted on a government website last month, is of Kem Sokha,
deputy head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), saying the
notorious Tuol Sleng prison was run by Vietnamese soldiers who ousted
the Khmer Rouge rather than the regime.
Around 15,000 men, women and children were tortured and executed at the prison, also known as S-21, in central Phnom Penh.
Sokha has admitted it is his voice on the recording but alleges it was
edited to say the contentious comments, a claim backed by the CNRP which
alleges the tape was aired "to cause political trouble" ahead of a
general election in July.
Lawmakers, mostly from the ruling party, unanimously approved the law after around an hour of debate on Friday.
law will prosecute anyone who "does not acknowledge, denies or
diminishes... crimes committed under the Democratic Kampuchea", the
draft said, referring to the brutal regime's official name.
Cheam Yeap told parliament that denial of the crimes committed by the
Khmer Rouge was "a serious insult to the souls" of those who died under
But critics say the law may jeopardise painstaking efforts to heal the country.
don't need the law to protect the truth of what happened during the
Khmer Rouge," Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of
Cambodia which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities, told AFP.
A protest led by a prominent survivor from Tuol Sleng is due to be held in the capital on Sunday.
by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge from
1975-79 wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through
starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.