20/05/2010 6:40 AM
CHOEUNG EK, Cambodia - Cambodia marked the annual "Day of Anger" Thursday by re-enacting torture and executions inflicted by the Khmer Rouge during their reign of terror in the 1970s.
About 3,000 people, including hundreds of Buddhist monks, gathered at Choeung Ek, a former Khmer Rouge "killing field" dotted with mass graves about nine miles (15 kilometres) south of Phnom Penh.
Some 40 students re-enacted the torture and execution methods of the Khmer Rouge in performances staged near a memorial filled with victims' skulls and mass graves where thousands of people were buried.
The "Day of Anger," an commemoration that began in the 1980s after the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge regime was toppled, was initially used to rally support for the ongoing guerrilla war against the group. Once a major, well-organized occasion, its promotion declined after the Paris Peace Accords of 1991 that put a formal end to the country's civil conflict.
Five of the Khmer Rouge regime's leaders are being detained by a U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge genocide tribunal, awaiting trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Those trials may begin late this year or early next year.
The tribunal is seeking justice for the estimated 1.7 million people who died from execution, overwork, disease and malnutrition under during the regime's 1975-79 rule.
Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who commanded the notorious S-21 prison where as many as 16,000 people are believed to have been tortured before being sent to Choeung Ek for execution, is the first senior Khmer Rouge figure to face trial, and the only one to acknowledge responsibility for his actions.
The verdict from the tribunal's first defendant is expected in the next few months.
Some relatives of the Khmer Rouge victims Thursday expressed hope that the Khmer Rouge leaders would be finally brought to justice.
"I know that the tribunal is facing financial problems but I urge again and again that the court should speed up their process more quickly because the defendants are getting old now," said Kao Ka Ol, 60, who said that more than a dozen of his relatives were killed by the Khmer Rouge.
"Talking about Khmer Rouge regime, my anger remains forever in my brain. I have been waiting for justice for more than 30 years now," he said.