May 20, 2016 / 9:35 AM / 3 years ago

Cambodians gather to pray, offer gifts for 'killing fields' dead

A man prays at the Choeung Ek memorial during the annual "Day of Anger", where people gather to remember those who perished during the communist Khmer Rouge regime, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

(Reuters) - Hundreds of people gathered on Friday at one of Cambodia’s infamous killing fields to remember the two million people who died under the communist Khmer Rouge regime.

Officials and relatives laid flowers and gave offerings on the “Day of Remembrance”, once known as the “Day of Hatred”, and students performed a re-enactment of Khmer Rouge soldiers taking prisoners.

The 1975-79 ultra-Maoist regime killed a fifth of the population through execution, torture and starvation in a bid to turn Cambodia into a communist state. Dictator Pol Pot was toppled from power when Vietnam invaded the country in 1979.

“During my prayers, I said to those who were killed that nowadays the government cooperates with the Khmer Rouge court to try to find justice for all the victims so they might rest in peace,” Khmer Rouge era survivor Yi Kim Seur said at Choueung Ek, about 15 km (9 miles) outside the capital, Phnom Penh.

A hybrid U.N.-Cambodian tribunal has reached verdicts in three high-profile cases since it was set up almost a decade ago but new cases have faced resistance.

Kaing Guek Eav, alias “Duch”, the head of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison where as many as 14,000 people were executed, received a life sentence in 2010.

Senior Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have also been handed life sentences.

Editing by Patrick Johnston and Clarence Fernandez

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