Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Howes trial update

I've been waiting patiently for developments in the trial of the alleged killers of British deminer Christopher Howes (left) and his Cambodian interpreter Houn Hourth, who were murdered in cold blood a few days after their abduction by the Khmer Rouge in March 1996. Today's Phnom Penh Post carries the story that the Municipal Court in Phnom Penh may open the trial of five former Khmer Rouge guerrillas sometime this month, but more likely the beginning of October. In a surprise move last November, three ex-rebels were arrested and charged with the kidnapping and murder of the two deminers, the alleged mastermind Khem Nguon, Loch Mao and Chep Cheat. Nguon, who served as number 2 to the notorious one-legged KR commander Ta Mok, had defected from the rebels to join the Cambodian armed forces at the end of 1998, and was awarded the rank of brigadier-general in the defence ministry. The others became civil servants. Loch Mao has been identified as the man who is believed to have shot Howes in the back. Two other arrests were made in May this year, of Sin Dorn and Puth Lim. All five men face 20 years in prison for premeditated murder and 10 years for illegal confinement if convicted. They have been held at Prey Sar prison since their arrests. The names of the killers had been known to the Cambodian authorities for many years but the appetite for taking former Khmer Rouge cadre into custody only gathered steam with the progress of the Tribunal and the arrest of senior KR leaders. Twelve years after the murders of Christopher Howes and Houn Hourth, we may just see justice prevail at long last. For a detailed look at the history of this case, click here.
Street 96 in Phnom Penh was renamed Christopher Howes Street in memory of the British deminer


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