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Khmer Rouge leaders charged with Cambodia genocide by international tribunal

Two leaders of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia have been found guilty of genocide by a UN backed-tribunal, Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). 

The genocide was conducted against the Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese population, who were subject to a litany of crimes including murder, extermination, enslavement and torture. 

The two men sentenced, Noun Chea, deputy of regime leader Pol Pot and head of state Khieu Samphan, 87, were already sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

The Khmer Rouge regime was instituted in 1975 after a coup against the reigning government and lasted until 1979 when Vietnam invaded. 

Sloth Sar, also known as Pol Pot, the leader of the regime initially fled but was captured in 1997 and died under house arrest a year later. 

The Khmer Rouge regime was Maoist having ambitions to establish a self-reliant, agrarian society which forced residents to work on rural cooperatives where they suffered atrocious working conditions and famines. 

Many were worked to death and others died due to starvation. The regime also instituted a purge against all those it viewed as enemies. 

Cham victims have said they were banned from following their religion and forced to eat pork. The regime also implemented a programme of forced marriages where women were not given a choice and were ordered to have children. The alleged goal was to “ensure the emergence of the next generation of workers in a union that would naturally provide less family loyalty."

In 2006 the ECCC was established with the support of Cambodian and international judges. However, it has only convicted three people for the role they played in the Khmer Rouge regime, despite having cost $300m (£232m).

There are cases against four other Khmer Rouge members however, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, has been vocal about his opposition to the tribunal, stating a need to move beyond Cambodia’s bloodsoaked history.