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Killing Fields' war crimes trial starts in Ca -

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Reporter: Karen Percy

ELEANOR HALL: The surviving victims of Cambodia's 1970s genocide have been living with the trauma
for more than 30 years.

Today some of them will have their day in court as a UN-backed tribunal begins its first war crimes
case in Phnom Penh.

But the court is not without controversy as South East Asia correspondent Karen Percy reports.

KAREN PERCY: Norng Chan Phal was just eight-years-old when he was taken to the notorious Tuol Sleng
prison with his mother and siblings.

His mother would never be seen again from the place the Khmer Rouge carried out interrogations and
torture. They were determined to root out any sympathisers for the CIA or America.

Mr Norng's survival is remarkable. He was one of five children found at the prison when Vietnam
took over Phnom Penh in 1979.

Dinh Phong was a journalist attached to a taskforce of Vietnamese soldiers.

(Dinh Phong speaking)

"When we arrived we could hear the sounds of babies," he says.

He was there when Norng Chan Phal and the others were discovered.

(Dinh Phong speaking)

"We found them under piles of clothes and rubbish," he tells us.

Norng Chan Phal had hidden hoping his mother would find him.

The commander of that prison Kaing Guek Eav also known as Comrade Duch is the first defendant
before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia - the tribunal that's backed by the
United Nations. Fifteen thousand people were tortured and sent to the killing fields by Comrade

Choeung Ek is one of the killing fields of Phnom Penh. These days it has become a memorial and a
tourist attraction. Tourists and locals alike can wander through the area where you see these
excavated holes which once held hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bodies.

There is also a shrine standing about 30 metres tall or thereabouts. Inside are skulls and bones of
the people that they dug up here.

WILLIAM SMITH: They are the most horrendous large scale crimes that occurred relative to anything
that happened before.

KAREN PERCY: Bill Smith is an Australian lawyer working as deputy co-prosecutor at the tribunal
which combines international law, Cambodian law and civil law.

WILLIAM SMITH: 1.7-million people were killed that should have not been killed during that period.
There is nothing that happened before was of that scale.

KAREN PERCY: There are four other defendants to face trial perhaps later this year.

Khieu Samphan was the president under the Khmer Rouge.

Leng Sary was the Foreign Minister. His wife Ieng Thirith was Social Affairs Minister. And Nuon
Chea was brother number two - the right hand man to Pol Pot - whose push for a Communist agrarian
society caused the deaths of as many as two-million people.

Pol Pot died more than a decade ago.

This tribunal marks the first time the perpetrators of war crimes will be tried in their own
country. But there are some who complain that the process has been too costly at more than
$200-million so far, that too few people are being tried and that justice has been too long in

Deputy co-prosecutor, William Smith:

WILLIAM SMITH: If someone has been culpable or participated in gross human rights violations,
whether they are prosecuted one year later or 30 years later, the victims don't care. They just
want to see some justice, some reconciliation.

KAREN PERCY: This is Karen Percy in Phnom Penh reporting for The World Today.