Posts Tagged ‘Khmer Rouge’
14-3-2013 PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Decades after Cambodia’s brutal Khmer Rouge movement oversaw the deaths of 1.7 million people by starvation, overwork and execution, the regime’s imprisoned top leaders are escaping justice one by one. How? Old age.
Thursday’s death of 87-year-old Ieng Sary, foreign minister under the Khmer Rouge, is fueling urgent calls among survivors and rights groups for the country’s U.N.-backed tribunal to expedite proceedings against the increasingly frail and aging leaders of the radical communist group, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.
Ieng Sary’s wife, former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, was ruled unfit to stand trial last year because she suffered from a degenerative mental illness consistent with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, only two people — ex-head of state Khieu Samphan, who is 81, and the movement’s former chief ideologist, Nuon Chea, who is 86 — remain on trial for their alleged roles in some of the 20th century’s most horrific crimes.
There are growing fears that both men could die before a verdict is rendered. Both are frail with high blood pressure, and have suffered strokes.
“The defendants are getting old, and the survivors are getting old,” said Bou Meng, one of the few Cambodians to survive Tuol Sleng prison, known as S-21, where up to 16,000 people were tortured and killed during the Khmer Rouge era. “The court needs to speed up its work.”
“I have been waiting for justice for nearly 40 years,” Bou Meng, 70, told The Associated Press. “I never thought it would take so long.”
When the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh in April 1975, they began moving an estimated 1 million people — even hospital patients — from the capital into the countryside in an effort to create a communist agrarian utopia.
By the time the bizarre experiment ended in 1979 with an invasion by advancing Vietnamese troops, an estimated 1.7 million people had died in Cambodia, which had only about 7 million people at the time. Most of the dead were victims of starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution under the Maoist regime. Their bodies were dumped in shallow mass graves that still dot the countryside.
The tribunal, officially known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, was tasked with seeking justice for crimes committed during that era.
The court, which was 10 years in the making, began operations in 2006. But despite some $150 million in funding, it has so far convicted only one defendant: Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the commandant of S-21 prison.
Duch was sentenced in 2010 to 35 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The sentence was reduced to a 19-year term because of time previously served and other technicalities, a move that sparked angry criticism from victims who said it was too lenient. Cambodia has no death penalty.
Several other major Khmer Rouge figures died before the court even existed, including supreme leader Pol Pot in 1998.
Ieng Sary’s death was no surprise given his age and ailing health, said Ou Virak, who heads the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. But “given the fact that the other two defendants are also in their 80s, it should act as a wake-up call to all concerned — the Cambodian government, the U.N., the international donors and the tribunal itself — that these cases need to be expedited urgently so that justice can be served.”
“The whole future of the tribunal is currently in limbo, and the possibility that hundreds of millions of dollars will have been wasted is now a very real threat,” Ou Virak said. “Most importantly, though, if all three die before their guilt or innocence can be determined, then the Cambodian people will quite understandably feel robbed of justice.”
The court has been criticized before for the sluggish pace of proceedings. But William Smith, one of the court’s prosecutors, said the trial has taken time because the indictments themselves have been lengthy, and the list of alleged crimes to be proven long.
The tribunal has been dogged by other problems, including funding shortages from international donors. Earlier this month, Cambodian translators angry that they had gone without pay for three months went on strike just before the court was to hear testimony from two foreign experts.
Tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Thursday that the interpreters would all return to work this week after the court administrator promised that they would get paid. But he added that the translators have threatened to strike again if they are not paid by month’s end.
In recent years, the tribunal has also been hit by infighting and angry resignations by foreign judges over whether to try more Khmer Rouge defendants on war crimes charges. Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985, has warned that no more trials will be allowed. Many former members of the Khmer Rouge, including Hun Sen himself, hold important positions in the current government.
The trial against Ieng Sary, his wife and the last two accused senior Khmer Rouge leaders alive began jointly in 2011. All have denied guilt for their roles during the radical communist movement’s rule.
Lars Olsen, another tribunal spokesman, said Thursday that “we understand that many probably are disappointed with the fact that we cannot complete the proceedings against Ieng Sary, and therefore we cannot determine” whether he is guilty or innocent of the charges against him.
But it’s important to remember, he said, that the case against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan “is not over.” He said it would not be affected by Ieng Sary’s death and proceedings will continue on schedule.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group gathering evidence of the Khmer Rouge crimes for the tribunal, said Ieng Sary’s death “carries little value for the regime’s victims, who patiently wait to see justice done.”
Ieng Sary died early Thursday under the care of doctors at a Phnom Penh hospital, where he was admitted earlier this month suffering from weakness and fatigue. He suffered fatal cardiac failure, said one of the prosecutors in his case, Chea Leang, who added that under Cambodian law, all charges against him will now officially be dropped.
Yim Sopheak, a 47-year-old street vendor who said the Khmer Rouge regime had executed her parents, said Ieng Sary “deserved to die in prison, not in a hospital. He should have died in the same way as he executed my parents and other people.”
Yi Chea, a 72-year-old flower seller who says her husband and other relatives were also killed during Khmer Rouge rule, said she was happy Ieng Sary was gone. But, she added that “he did not deserve to die naturally like this.”
Tribunal hearings resume on March 25, said Neth Pheaktra. Foreign medical experts are due to testify on the health status of Nuon Chea, to determine whether the ailing ex-leader is still fit to continue to stand trial.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Ieng Sary, who co-founded the communist Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians in the 1970s, and who decades later became one of its few leaders to be put on trial, died Thursday morning before his case could be finished. He was 87.
The brother-in-law of late Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, Ieng Sary died before any verdict was reached in the trial, which began in late 2011 with four defendants and now has only two.
His death dashed hopes among survivors and prosecutors that he would be punished for his alleged crimes against humanity during the darkest chapter in his country’s history.
Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the joint Cambodian-international tribunal where Ieng Sary had been on trial, confirmed his death. Chea Leang, a co-prosecutor for the tribunal, told the press that he died of “irreversible cardiac failure.”
Ieng Sary had suffered from high blood pressure and heart problems and been admitted to a Phnom Penh hospital March 4 with weakness and severe fatigue. His body was being taken Thursday by ambulance from the hospital to Malai in western Cambodia, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold where his family lives, for his funeral.
Ieng Sary was being tried along with two other former Khmer Rouge leaders, both in their 80s, and there are fears that they, too, could also die before justice is served. Ieng Sary’s wife, former Social Affairs Minister Ieng Thirith, had also been charged but was ruled unfit to stand trial last year because she suffered from a degenerative mental illness, probably Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are disappointed that we could not complete the proceeding against Ieng Sary,” Olsen said, adding that the case against his colleagues Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist, and Khieu Samphan, an ex-head of state, will continue and will not be affected.
Ieng Sary founded the Khmer Rouge with leader Pol Pot. The communist regime, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, claimed it was building a pure socialist society by evicting people from cities to work in labor camps in the countryside. Its radical policies led to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, disease, overwork and execution.
Ieng Sary was foreign minister in the regime, and as its top diplomat became a much more recognizable figure internationally than his secretive colleagues.
The Khmer Rouge came to power through a civil war that toppled a U.S.-backed regime. Ieng Sary then helped persuade hundreds of Cambodian intellectuals to return home from overseas, often to their deaths.
The returnees were arrested and put in “re-education camps,” and most were later executed, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent group gathering evidence of the Khmer Rouge crimes for the tribunal.
As a member of the Khmer Rouge’s central and standing committee, Ieng Sary “repeatedly and publicly encouraged, and also facilitated, arrests and executions within his Foreign Ministry and throughout Cambodia,” Steve Heder said in his co-authored book “Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge.” Heder is a Cambodia scholar who later worked with the U.N.-backed tribunal.
Known by his revolutionary alias as “Comrade Van,” Ieng Sary was a recipient of many internal Khmer Rouge documents detailing torture and mass execution of suspected internal enemies, according to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
“We are continuing to wipe out remaining (internal enemies) gradually, no matter if they are opposed to our revolution overtly or covertly,” read a cable sent to Ieng Sary in 1978. It was reprinted in an issue of the center’s magazine in 2000, apparently proving he had full knowledge of bloody purges.
“It’s clear that he was one of the leaders that was a recipient of information all the way down to the village level,” Youk Chhang said.
In 1996, years after the overthrown Khmer Rouge retreated to the jungle, Ieng Sary became the first member of its inner circle to defect, bringing thousands of foot soldiers with him and hastening the movement’s final disintegration.
The move secured him a limited amnesty, temporary credibility as a peacemaker and years of comfortable living in Cambodia, but that vanished as the U.N.-backed tribunal built its case against him.
Ieng Sary was arrested in 2007, and the trial against him started in late 2011. He faced charges that included crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
He denied any hand in the atrocities. At a press conference following his defection, he said Pol Pot “was the sole and supreme architect of the party’s line, strategy and tactics.”
“Nuon Chea implemented all Pol Pot’s decisions to torture and execute those who expressed opposite opinions and those they hated, like intellectuals,” Ieng Sary said. He claimed that he was a secondary figure excluded from Pol Pot’s secret security committee, which decided policy and who would be executed.
“Do I have remorse? No,” he said in 1996. “I have no regrets because this was not my responsibility.”
Only one former Khmer Rouge official has been tried and convicted: former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, who was sentenced to life in prison.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has openly opposed additional indictments of former Khmer Rouge figures, some of whom have become his political allies.
Pol Pot himself died in 1998 in Cambodia’s jungles while a prisoner of his own comrades.
Ieng Sary declined to participate in his trial, demanding that the tribunal consider the pardon he received from Cambodia’s king when he defected in 1996. The tribunal, formally known as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, previously ruled that the pardon does not cover its indictment against him.
Ieng Sary was born Kim Trang on Oct. 24, 1925, in southern Vietnam. In the early 1950s, he was among many Cambodian students who received government scholarships to study in France, where he also took part in a Marxist circle.
After returning to Cambodia in 1957, he taught history at an elite high school in the capital, Phnom Penh, while engaging in clandestine communist activities.
He, Ieng Thirith, Pol Pot and Pol Pot’s wife eventually formed the core of the Khmer Rouge movement. Pol Pot’s wife, Khieu Ponnary, also was Ieng Thirith’s sister; she died in 2003.
Pol Pot was known as “Brother No. 1″, Nuon Chea as “Brother No. 2″ and Ieng Sary was “Brother No. 3.”
In August 1979, eight months after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge by a Vietnam-led resistance, Ieng Sary was sentenced in absentia to death by the court of a Hanoi-installed government that was made up of former Khmer Rouge defectors like Hun Sen, the current prime minister. The show trial also condemned Pol Pot.
Since he was in charge of the Khmer Rouge guerrilla movement’s finances, Ieng Sary was believed to have used his position to amass personal wealth.
On Aug. 8, 1996, a Khmer Rouge rebel radio broadcast announced a death sentence against him for embezzling millions of dollars that reportedly came from the group’s logging and gem business along the border with Thailand. But the charge appeared to be politically inspired, recognition that he was becoming estranged from his comrades-in-arms.
He struck a peace deal with Hun Sen and days later led a mutiny of thousands of Khmer Rouge fighters to join the government, which was a prelude to the movement’s total collapse in 1999.
As a reward, Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia almost unchallenged for the last two decades, secured a royal amnesty for Ieng Sary from then-King Norodom Sihanouk, who himself had been a virtual prisoner of the Khmer Rouge and lost more than a dozen children and relatives during its reign of terror. The government also awarded Ieng Sary a diplomatic passport for travel.
Between his defection and arrest, Ieng Sary lived a comfortable life, dividing time between his opulent villa in Phnom Penh and his home in Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in northwestern Cambodia.
He and some of his former aides in the Khmer Rouge, intellectuals who were in a second generation of the group’s leadership, made a short-lived attempt at forming a legal political movement.
28-01-2013 PHNOM PENH (The Cambodia Herald) – The Khmer Rouge tribunal said Friday it would hear new witness testimony next week following the discharge of former head of state Khieu Samphan from hospital.
A statement by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia said the testimony on Monday had been scheduled for the whole day.
“The trial chamber will then continue to hear submissions on documents the co-prosecutors seek admitted as evidence on Wednesday 30 Jan and Thursday 31 Jan,” it said.
The statement said Nuon Chea, the former deputy to Pol Pot, had waived his right to be present during testimony.
Why does someone join a revolutionary movement?
For Suong Sikoeun, a slim, elderly man who began testifying at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, it had to do with the way his mother dressed. “I was born into a poor peasant family,” Sikoeun told the prosecution. “I thought of my mother, who didn’t even have proper clothing for going to the pagoda, and our living throughout the year, and we couldn’t even afford our living and eating, we had to borrow it from other people.
“That kind of anger is still burning in my heart, and it started from my childhood,” he added. “This hatred, this anger, made me think of trying to find a way in order to contribute to liberating my country.”
Sikoeun was describing a bygone era, a period of his childhood that dated back to the pre-independence days when Cambodia was still a French colony. Independence came in 1954, and three years later Sikoeun was in Paris studying civil aviation on a scholarship.
In France, he became further involved in the student resistance and the so-called Marxist-Leninist circle in which co-accused former regime head of state Khieu Samphan participated.
He studied communist doctrine while going to school, and his connections at the time later earned him positions with The National United Front of Kampuchea, the government-in-exile in the early 1970s that Norodom Sihanouk led out of Beijing.
The front came about in the aftermath of the coup d’etat by General Lon Nol in 1970, and “it was established to free ourselves from the Lon Nol yoke”.
He worked in security and information and took trips abroad with Case 002 co-accused Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan as part of foreign delegations. He remembers visiting far-flung countries. Egypt. Algeria. The former Yugoslavia. Romania.
“The visits were to inform our friendly countries about the Cambodian resistance movement,” he said.
After the Khmer Rouge seized power in 1975, he worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the command of Ieng Sary.
Earlier in the morning, the defence team for Khieu Samphan finished questioning witness Rochoem Tun, who was head of administration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Tun became testy at having to answer what he deemed repetitive questions: “I already made my response,” he said at one point. “And if you could not understand it, it’s your problem.”
4/8/2012 PHNOM PENH (Cambodia Herald) – Foreign Minister Hor Namhong has indicated that Khmer Rouge tribunal witness Rochim Ton is ‘stirring up controversy’ by reviving claims that he collaborated with the Khmer Rouge regime while imprisoned between 1975 and 1979.
The veteran diplomat has already successfully sued those who have accused him of being a Khmer Rouge prison chief at the Boeung Trabek re-education camp during the period.
“It is unfortunate that those who continue to defend the legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime seek, in the interest of their defense, to deflect attention from themselves and their cases, by way of stirring up controversy around public figures like myself,” he said in a statement dated Thursday.
“The Khmer Rouge regime is an epic tragedy that continues to haunt Cambodia’s people today.
“As a prisoner at Boeng Trabek re-education camp where I lost two sisters, their husbands, children and a niece as well as countless colleagues, I have nothing but sorrow and empathy for the victims and their families.
“Cambodians continue to suffer from the crimes of the Khmer Rouge even today. The Khmer Rouge not only destroyed a generation of Cambodian people but also, in many ways, a civilization. We are still rebuilding this civilization today.
“The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is a court of law, and not a political forum, and I believe attempts to politicize the court or stir up controversy are inappropriate,” the foreign minister said.
“My greatest hope is that one day justice is done and the legacy of the Khmer Rouge is given its proper place in the dustbin of history — without defense or controversy.”
ANLONG VENG, Cambodia – Want to see Pol Pot’s grave or his broken toilet seat? How about a visit to the house of a feared Khmer Rouge commander known as “The Butcher”?
Welcome to the town of Anlong Veng, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold which hopes to become the next must-see destination on Cambodia’s dark tourism trail, but which faces calls not to glorify its role in the country’s bloody past.
A rectangular mound of earth lined with half-buried glass bottles and protected by a corrugated iron roof marks the spot where Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot was hastily cremated in 1998.
Aside from a sign asking visitors to “please help to preserve this historical site” there is no information on offer, leaving Cambodian tourist Pov Dara, 27, to ponder the significance of the low-key grave.
“I feel sad for the people but not for him,” she decides, after snapping a photo of her relatives flashing the peace sign.
Up to two million people died from overwork, starvation or execution when the Khmer Rouge, led by Pol Pot, attempted to create a communist utopia in the late 1970s.
His cremation site, which attracts some 10 visitors a day, is one of 14 tourist spots the government intends to “preserve and develop” in northern Cambodia’s Anlong Veng.
Other places of interest include leaders’ old homes and a rusty radio truck used to broadcast Khmer Rouge propaganda.
Impoverished Cambodia is no stranger to genocide tourism, with the Tuol Sleng torture centre in Phnom Penh and the nearby Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, where thousands died, among the nation’s most popular attractions.
But while the focus at those sites is on victims of the 1975-1979 regime, Anlong Veng is populated by one-time loyal Khmer Rouge followers, giving it the feel of a town that has found itself on the wrong side of history.
‘Cambodia’s memories are not for sale’
As locals relish the lucrative prospect of welcoming more tourists to the once isolated area, observers stress the need to educate guests about Cambodia’s history — and avoid turning the destination into a Khmer Rouge nostalgia tour.
To that end, the tourism ministry has teamed up with the esteemed Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities.
The centre is preparing to publish a guidebook based on the stories of long-time residents and it is training tour guides to provide meaningful information about “what happened and why during the Khmer Rouge regime’s final days”, said the group’s director Youk Chhang. A museum is also planned.
But it is important not to exploit the country’s tragic past, he told AFP.
Cambodia’s memories are “not for sale”, he said.
“We have the responsibility to ensure that Anlong Veng is a historical and responsible site to educate the public.”
The Khmer Rouge was ousted by Vietnamese forces in 1979, though regime leaders and supporters continued to wage a low-level guerrilla war against the government.
Anlong Veng, near the Thai border, was the Khmer Rouge’s last rebel centre before the movement disintegrated in the late 1990s.
One of the best-preserved visitor sites in town is the lakeside home of late military commander Ta Mok, known as “The Butcher” for allegedly orchestrating brutal massacres that killed thousands, although locals remember him as a generous leader who gave the town a road, a bridge, a hospital and a school.
Ta Mok, who briefly led the Khmer Rouge in its final days, was the only rebel who refused to surrender or strike a deal with the government after Pol Pot’s death. He was arrested a year later and died in prison in 2006 awaiting trial.
His airy house is little more than a shell today, its furniture looted long ago. But several walls are still adorned with colourful yet amateurish murals of temples and a map of Cambodia — symbols of Ta Mok’s patriotism, according to the site’s caretaker San Roeung, himself an ex-Khmer Rouge soldier.
“A lot of people here liked Ta Mok. When the enemy came, he took people to safety,” said the 60-year-old, who helped build the house as well as the two cages outside used to hold Ta Mok’s enemies.
He added that he hoped an influx of visitors would improve living standards for locals, who could “grow mangoes or jackfruit to sell to tourists”.
‘I’d call it the killing camera’
Few are more excited about the town’s tourism potential than Anlong Veng district deputy governor Nhem En — who was the chief photographer at Tuol Sleng, where he endlessly captured images of inmates awaiting certain death.
A Khmer Rouge insider until he defected in the mid-1990s, Nhem En has built up a huge archive of photos, as well as a bizarre collection of keepsakes such as Pol Pot’s sandals, his uniform and his shattered toilet seat.
Now he is looking for a partner to help set up a private museum to display his treasures, he said, having apparently given up on the idea of selling key items in the hope of earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“These items might not be worth much financially but, in historical terms, they’re invaluable,” he told AFP at his home, after showing some of his favourite possessions.
“This camera, if I put it in a museum, I would call it the killing camera,” he said, as he held up a vintage Rolleicord, “because all of the people in Tuol Sleng who came before it died.”
Nhem En insists he was not in a position to help any prisoners, all he could do was “follow orders” and “mind his own business”.
Tuol Sleng prison chief Duch was in February sentenced to life in jail by Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court, the first person to face justice for horrors committed under the regime.
The court is now trying the three most senior surviving Khmer Rouge members, but Nhem En has little interest in the proceedings, preferring to muse about Anlong Veng’s nascent tourism industry.
The ancient temples of Angkor, which attract more than a million visitors a year, are a mere two-hour drive away, and Nhem En believes that if a fraction of those visitors added Anlong Veng to their itinerary, his town, with its plentiful guesthouses and restaurants, would benefit considerably.
“Anlong Veng will not go backwards,” he said, though he emphasised that his own collection of memorabilia is about more than just profiting from his time with the Khmer Rouge.
“I’m doing this to make the world understand more about the Khmer Rouge regime,” he said.
Tokyo (AFP) – Cambodia’s UN-backed court on Khmer Rouge atrocities may be “a battle against time” but it is paving the way for national reconciliation, the outgoing Japanese judge in the tribunal said Thursday.
The court, set up in 2006 to seek justice for the deaths of up to two million people under the 1975-1979 hardline communist Khmer Rouge rule, has so far settled just one case.
It sentenced former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, in February to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of some 15,000 people.
“Although it has finished only one case so far, I think it has provided something that can be a prerequisite for national reconciliation,” Motoo Noguchi told a news conference in Tokyo.
The 51-year-old Japanese is one of three foreign judges in the seven-member top panel in the Khmer Rouge tribunal, formally called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
“Tens of thousands of people have observed the trial so far” and it has been widely reported, said Noguchi. “People are beginning to talk in an open manner about the Khmer Rouge days with the younger generations listening,” he said, adding that the Khmer Rouge was now mentioned in Cambodian school textbooks after a blackout that lasted decades.
Noguchi will formally leave his judge’s post on Sunday to work as a senior official at a research institute of the Japanese justice ministry. He admitted that the court was now proceeding with its second case at “what the people may regard as a stressfully slow speed”.
“It is literally shaping up as a battle against time as the victims and the defendants are getting older,” Noguchi said, attributing the delay to “technical” reasons, rather than any political inteference.
The second case involves former Khmer Rouge leaders “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, former head of state Khieu Samphan, and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary.
All in their 80s, they face charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Ieng Sary’s wife Ieng Thirith, the regime’s former social affairs minister, faces the same charges but she has been ruled unfit to stand trial because she has dementia.
Top Khmer Rouge leader “Brother Number One” Pol Pot died in 1998.
Apart from the age problem, Noguchi said there was a funding bottleneck for the court amid a global economic slowdown, even as Japan remained its top donor.
“There seems to be no magical solution to it.”
Noguchi said his decision to leave the post had nothing to do with the resignation of two international judges in the court in the six months to March.
They resigned over difficulties investigating two new cases involving lower-level officials due to strong opposition from the Cambodian government.
The tribunal was set up in 2006 and the second trial only started in late 2011.
“It may take a few more years for the second case to reach the appeal court,” Noguchi said. “I thought it was timely to leave the post now.”
AFP, 23 June 2012
Health and funding woes are threatening a flagship Khmer Rouge trial, experts say, kindling fears that the elderly defendants may never answer for the worst of Cambodia’s “Killing Fields” era.
The three most senior surviving leaders of the brutal regime stand accused of some of the gravest crimes in modern history for their roles in up to two million deaths in the late 1970s.
Worried the octogenarians would not live to see a verdict, judges at a UN-backed court in Phnom Penh split their complex case into smaller trials, saving the most serious atrocities for later proceedings.
But seven months into their slow-moving first “mini-trial”, concern is mounting that the court — faced with a worsening funding crunch and fresh fears over the accused’s health — will be unable to finish the entire case.
“This is it, this is the trial. Nobody believes there’s going to be a second phase,” said Anne Heindel, a legal advisor to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which researches Khmer Rouge atrocities.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the communist movement dismantled modern society, abolished money and religion and forced the population to work in huge labour camps in a bid to forge an agrarian utopia.
“Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea, ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and former head of state Khieu Samphan deny charges including war crimes and genocide.
The first trial segment focuses mainly on the forced evacuation of city people to rural work sites, listed as a crime against humanity.
Yet for most Cambodians, far greater horrors than that took place under the 1975-1979 regime, including torture, mass purges and forced marriages — events the court may never shed light on.
“I’m not happy. The truth is not being revealed,” said prominent Khmer Rouge survivor Chum Mey, 82.
His comments were echoed by Heindel, warning against settling for a “narrow judgement” that does not “tell the story of what happened under the Khmer Rouge”.
“It would greatly diminish the legacy of this court,” she said.
The prosecution has twice asked judges, so far in vain, to widen the scope of the first trial by including more crimes, such as the killings of thousands of perceived “enemies” shortly after the evacuations.
“We believe that it is important that if this trial is the only trial against the accused that it is viewed to represent the most horrendous and prevalent crimes committed,” co-prosecutor William Smith said.
Their demands took on greater urgency after Ieng Sary, 86, who has heart problems, was hospitalised for five days for bronchitis last month, forcing hearings to be postponed for a week.
Since opening statements began in late November, the court has held trial hearings on 78 days. On Thursday it adjourned for almost a month.
The court’s funding problems are another major obstacle, according to observers.
The tribunal, paid for by voluntary contributions from donor nations, has cost more than $160 million since it was set up in 2006 and faces a $22 million budget shortfall this year.
Observers blame much of the donor fatigue on the court’s controversial investigations into possible new Khmer Rouge cases, which are dogged by claims of government interference.
So far, the troubled tribunal has completed just one case, sentencing a former prison chief to life in jail for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.
For the elderly accused currently in the dock, any kind of sentence would be “a death sentence essentially” meaning donors might have little appetite to spend money on further trial phases, Ieng Sary’s defence lawyer Michael Karnavas said.
“The question from the donors’ point of view is: is it good value? Probably not,” he said.
Karnavas said he does not expect judges to expand the scope of the first segment of the current trial but added they would have to show “flexibility” to defence teams if they did, including recalling witnesses.
“I’d rather have a nice clean trial,” he said. “You invited me to the party, now let’s dance. But you can’t be changing the rules in the middle of the party.”
June 6, 2012
In return for millions in investments, Cambodia is giving out huge land concessions to China and Vietnam, displacing tens of thousands.
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — The 328 acres known as Boeung Kak Lake still appear on maps of Cambodia’s capital as a large blue patch, though its waters are now only a memory. Pumped full of sand, the area is being readied for a promised development that has already displaced some 4,000 families. Looming over the puddles and dirt, two massive billboards display portraits of the high-end residential and commercial wonderland intended for the plot.
In 2007, the Cambodian government handed Boeung Kak Lake to Phnom Penh-based Shukaku Inc. in the form of a 99-year lease, which allows the company to clear the land for economic development. The local company belongs to Lao Meng Khin, a close friend of Prime Minister Hun Sen and a senator from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, but several Chinese companies also have a share in the new development project. The Inner Mongolian firm Erdos Hongjun Investment Corporation has a 50 percent stake in Shukaku. Another Chinese firm, Guangdong New Golden Foundation, has also announced its intent to invest in the project.
Cambodia today is quite literally giving itself away, especially to China and Vietnam — two rivals vying for regional influence. As the Cambodian government welcomes millions of dollars in investments from both nations, the land concessions handed out to these foreigners are forcing tens of thousands off their property and imperiling Cambodia’s future. Over the last 30 years, the Sino-Vietnamese rivalry has shaped Cambodia militarily, politically, and economically, and there are no signs this will change.
Much of the backdrop for this current activity was set during the 2008 financial meltdown that took a wrecking ball to the world economy and sent investors searching for stability in unexpected places. Mineral resources continue to deplete, while the costs of labor are rising in the mega manufacturing centers of southern China. Neutral, well-positioned smaller nations in Southeast Asia like Cambodia have become alluring targets for new investments. Although the commercial benefits have bolstered the economies of such nations, the smaller states have become ground zero in the struggle for resources by more dominant countries.
Following decades of conflict, Cambodia now actively courts foreign investors and aid organizations in its long process of rebuilding. With that aim, the nation’s leaders have sought to attract competing superpowers, drawn to the country by its cheap labor and strategic geographic location, and balance them against each other.
In Channy, president and CEO of Acleda Bank, notes that as of 2010, “foreigner investors can [now] own up to 100 percent of the company.” But it often remains difficult to decipher which companies are foreign and which are locally owned. Like Boeung Kak Lake’s Shukaku Inc., businesses may appear to be local, though the controlling stake is actually held by a foreign company. “There are different arrangements of shareholders,” says Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association. “So sometimes we might see the names of the company as local, but it could represent a lot of foreign interests as well.” such scenarios, he says, occur much more often than is officially reported.
Negotiating with giants has accelerated the pace of Cambodia’s economic development over the last decade. But as Cambodia becomes the stage of an economic power play between Vietnam and China, maintaining the delicate balance between regional powers will be risky. The Cambodian government says land concessions bolster the country’s economy and improve its infrastructure. Each concession is leased for 70 to 99 years for agricultural or industrial development. The Land Law stipulates that economic land concessions cannot exceed 25,000 acres, a rule that is easily and frequently circumvented by using multiple companies with interlocking ownerships, subsidiaries, or directorships. According to the Cambodian Economic Association’s Chan, half of the land concessions are held by foreign corporations, which he predicts will spell disaster for Cambodians in the years to come. “Land is limited,” he warns. “When you give a lot to foreign companies as free economic concessions, that means there will be less for the future generations.”
Although the law stipulates the concessions are given transparently to stimulate economic growth, the land goes most frequently to those coughing up the largest bribe and often spells disaster for residents living on the land without documents, says Chan. “The payment is informal with a lot of informal dealings in order to get the formal free economic land concessions,” he says.
Most Cambodians do not have land titles — one consequence of the Khmer Rouge decision to abolish all private property after they seized control of the nation in 1975. The continuing lack of such titles makes it easier for a corrupt government to evict people whose legal rights are difficult to prove even if they’ve lived and worked the lands for decades. Since 2007, almost 30,000 families have been forced from their homes, relocated to less desirable areas to make way for wealthy Cambodians or companies, according to Thun Saray, the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association.
Land concessions are often given in large swaths to the country’s oknhas, wealthy and influential businessmen allied with the Cambodian People’s Party and favored by Hun Sen. Many of these oknhas, such as Shukaku’s Lao, are using their insider status with the current regime to attract foreign investment. In addition to Shukaku, Lao co-owns Pheapimex Fu Chan Co. Ltd. with his wife, Choeung Sopheap. The two companies share an address as well as a reputation for land grabbing. In February, Pheapimex demolished the homes of some 400 families after they were forcibly evicted from Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila settlement. The month before, 10 organizations issued a joint statement calling for the release of 24 women and six children from the Prey Speu center, a detention facility with a history of human rights abuses, where they were unlawfully detained following the demolition of their Borei Keila homes. According to a 2009 Global Witness report, Pheapimex holds more than three million acres in logging and economic land concessions.
In an August 9, 2007 cable released by Wikileaks, the American embassy in Phnom Penh reported that Choeung, who is ethnically Chinese, “uses her contacts in China to attract foreign investment from Chinese companies such as Wuzhishan Ls and Jiangsu Taihu International.” The cable noted that Hun Sen’s relationship to oknhas was “both symbiotic and self-limiting… Hun Sen’s very reliance on his tycoon network may hinder progress in battling corruption, illegal logging, and other sensitive issues that he claims are priorities.”
“The problem is the coalition between the politicians and businessmen,” says Chheang Vannarith, security director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, a non-partisan Phnom Penh-based research center. “We don’t know what the deals look like, but most of the time, they violate human rights.”
According to Acleda Bank’s In, the former lake behind his office building showcases the negative repercussions and fallout from the country’s zealous courtship of foreign investors. “Investors from China joined by local investors evicted people from their own land,” he says. “If they don’t follow the law, they evict the people with no compensation and cause a lot of social problems.”
The Cambodian government has granted more than 17 million acres to businesses as land concessions over the last three years, a shocking 40 percent of the country, according to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association. Calling the practice “messy” and “difficult,” ANZ Royal Bank CEO Stephen Higgins says the current method for redistributing land is not transparent enough for ANZ Royal, a joint Australian, New Zealand, and Cambodian venture. “We are very wary of touching land concessions,” he says. “There’s a couple that we won’t [underwrite], because they wouldn’t pass the ‘K.Y.C.’ — know your customer test. We need to be able to show that their money is from legitimate sources. Boeung Kak Lake we wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot-pole. It’s just disgraceful.” Higgins believes the practices reflect poorly on the country and attract more shady investors, adding, “Bribery is a way of life in Cambodia.”
Given the sheer scale of these handouts and the length of time granted for these leases, there will be little possibility for Cambodians to develop their own agricultural sector in the future. This could spell trouble for future generations. “If we have given out a lot of free land concessions for 70 years,” says Chan of the Cambodian Economic Association, “what will happen if in 20 or 30 years we have a lot of local people who have the capital, capacity, and technology to do the same things? There will not be much land remaining for them.”
Kao Kim Hourn, state secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responds that the land concessions are more of a “long term benefit to the state budget and help contribute to the economy.” Although he admits that the “temptation” for land grabbing and land banking exists, he says the onus is on civil society to monitor corruption. He insists the government is diligently rooting out land grabbers who fail to abide by the terms of development. “If you get the license, and you do nothing except sit on it for a long period of time or you try to sell the license to another investor,” Kao says, “that’s something that’s being reviewed, and a number of licenses have been revoked.”
Whether or not the land concessions are developed, Kao believes there remains plenty of land to go around. With a population of only about 15 million, it is still possible to move people to unoccupied plots. “The idea is to encourage people to live in the border areas,” he says. Kao argues that displacing and relocating families reinforces Cambodia’s geographic boundaries and prevents countries like Vietnam and Thailand from claiming land near the frontier, much of which is not securely demarcated. Of course, Vietnamese state- owned companies have already received large land concessions along the border, especially in Cambodia’s northeast.
Uneasy Friends and Neighbors
Historically entrenched adversaries, both China and Vietnam have been variously patrons and armed foes of Cambodia. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot allied with both China and Vietnam through much of the Vietnam War, which ended in the spring of 1975 with Hanoi’s takeover of South Vietnam and the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge. But escalating violence along the Cambodia-Vietnam border and fear of Vietnam’s increasing rapprochement with China’s bitter enemy, the Soviet Union, led to growing tensions. Eventually, Vietnam invaded Cambodia, overthrowing the Pol Pot regime in 1979. In turn, China invaded Vietnam in February 1979 in a bloody 28-day war that ended when China withdrew, and both sides claimed victory. In Cambodia, Vietnam installed the current ruling party — the Cambodian People’s Party. Ties between the two governments remain strong today.
Vietnam’s red flags lined Phnom Penh’s main boulevards to greet a visiting Vietnamese delegation in mid-December. It’s a predictable affair, the banners unfurling and the roads cleared to make way for the ceremonial procession of the prime minister and his honored guests. The pomp and circumstance carries on for the duration of the delegation’s stay — anything to impress a valuable ally and investor.
When it comes to the issue of who has the largest controlling stake in Cambodia, land plays prominently into the equation. Boeung Kak Lake is a prime example of the growing foreign control over the country’s land use, production, and economic output. The Chinese investment in this project — $98 million — is just a fraction of the $1.16 billion China invested in Cambodia in 2010 alone, and the pace is only accelerating. Since the launch of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement in January 2010, Chinese investments in Cambodia have increased dramatically. Although China isn’t the only outside investor — Japan, Vietnam, and Korea are also in the mix — it is by far the largest, accounting for more than 20 percent of total foreign investment in Cambodia.
By comparison, Vietnam’s investments in Cambodia totaled $248 million by the end of 2010. However, Vietnam is the most active foreign investor when it comes to developing its concessions, using the property to boost rubber production. As a result, forests across the country have been converted into Vietnamese state-owned rubber plantations. Vietnam’s rubber exports have grown 55 percent in the past year, largely due to exploiting the new holdings in Cambodia.
Although China has also claimed large stretches of Cambodia’s land through concessions, it has been slower to implement land-based investment projects than the Vietnamese. Instead, Chinese companies have focused on building controversial hydropower stations in Cambodia — a pattern China has repeated across much of the developing world. Currently, there are 11 proposed dams along the Mekong. According to ANZ Royal’s Higgins, each hydro scheme costs $300 to $500 million. Although activists claim the results will be catastrophic for families living along the Mekong — as they have been along scores of rivers where Chinese dams have appeared — several Cambodian officials have welcomed such long-term investment projects and the promises of new sources of cheap electricity.
The acquisition and exploitation of Cambodia’s land and water resources showcase the muscles of its patrons. By controlling more of the country’s economy, Vietnam and China are positioning themselves to exert greater political influence. In essence, Cambodia’s great giveaway is the perfect opportunity for its two neighbors to advance their own geo-political strategies. Cambodia has relied on external patrons for centuries, and the last three decades have proved no different. According to Chheang, more than 30 percent of the country’s national budget comes from foreign donations.
When restrictions are imposed by international agencies like the World Bank, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party invokes its connections with countries that continue to give aid, seemingly without strings. When Cambodia handed over 22 dissident Uighur refugees to China for persecution in the face of American disapproval, the United States cancelled a large shipment of military trucks to the country. “The next thing you know, there’s a load of trucks from China, as in military trucks,” snorts Higgins.
Most economic and political analysts worry that, at least in the near-term, it will be impossible for the country to remain autonomous. “As long as you don’t have economic independence, especially concerning the national budget, then you cannot have a purely independent foreign policy,” Chheang observes. In its struggle to achieve neutrality, Cambodia has sought to diversify the foreign investors it attracts. “Cambodia has an open policy to invite all foreign investors to invest in the kingdom,” says Cheam Yeap, a chairman of the National Assembly, maintaining that there are no preferences for one country over another. “As a neutral country, we’re open to all.”
A Business Haven?
The fact that Cambodia is open for business is apparent as soon as the plane touches the ground. Along the main road leading to Phnom Penh airport, billboards advertise country clubs and condominiums. The extravagant images contrast sharply with the piles of trash burning along the highway. Still, Cambodia’s government will bend over backwards to accommodate new investors. “This is one of the most pro-business countries in Asia,” says Higgins. “For an ex-communist country, it’s very easy to run a business here.”
Cambodia’s last coup in 1997 and the country’s tumultuous history might be expected to lead to doubts from investors. Yet, over the last decade of relative political stability, Cambodia has experienced rapid development. “Cambodia, pre-[financial] crisis, was one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” Higgins continues. “It was the second fastest in Asia, after China.” Cambodia’s growth is still relatively new, and it still has potential for exploitation, especially of its natural resources.
In 2008-2009, “the global financial crisis and economic downturn caused [investors] to shift their investments to this region,” Acleda Bank’s In explains. Aside from the option of total ownership by a foreign investor, the country also offers appealing special economic zones with one stop service — infrastructure, electricity, telephone, and paperwork for import-export. “You can get everything done in one place,” the foreign ministry’s Kao says. “The idea is to create a very conducive business and economic environment.”
Higgins adds that there’s the strong draw of cheap labor, which is on average about a 10th the wage levels in China. As the costs of labor and electricity continue to increase in Vietnam and China, businesses in both countries have moved operations abroad. Cambodia is a nearby destination with a young, growing population. “Labor arbitrage is very important,” Higgins says. “Cambodia has 250,000 to 300,000 people entering the workforce every year. So that should keep wage levels pretty reasonable.”
Using cheap labor to attract businesses might fulfill the short-term employment goals for Cambodia’s growing youth population, but Chan of the Cambodian Economic Association warns there is real concern when it comes to depleting the country’s assets. “GDP growth doesn’t account for whose growth it is. Much of this income doesn’t stay in the country. It goes to a foreign country. so that’s what we lose. Just like we give land for free to foreigners to make income from.”
Just as the majority of earnings from many of its foreign investors leaves the country, so too does infrastructure aid. Even though China appears to provide generous development assistance, often the funds are merely recycled back to Chinese contractors and developers — a pattern the country has used and abused across much of Asia and Africa. This may not always win China friends, but it takes care of China’s pressing need to find and develop new, cheap labor sources.
Puppet or Peacekeeper?
While courting foreign investment, the Cambodian government is sacrificing the rights of its own people and the future of the country in favor of competing regional powers. It is a battle that promises only to intensify since Cambodia assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN in January, a milestone for the country. With the chair comes a complex entanglement of disputes over land and water resources, the most challenging of which concerns rights to the South China Sea claimed by China, Vietnam, and four other Southeast Asian nations. In addition to providing crucial trade routes and rich fishing grounds, the sea is estimated to contain large underwater oil and gas reserves. Hoping to preserve its own strategic interest in the South China Sea, the United States supports ASEAN’s key role in resolving the territorial disputes. Some worry that Cambodia won’t be able to balance the pro-American ASEAN nations and Phnom Penh’s Chinese benefactor, giving the negotiating edge to China. “China uses economic diplomacy to create regional influence. It really works,” Chheang notes.
Cambodia’s steadfast commitment to neutrality is an essential component of maintaining peace in Southeast Asia, especially during its chairmanship of ASEAN. While Hun Sen appears to lean more toward China, Cambodia wants to prove itself a key player and an honest broker for the region — potentially a powerful motive to avoid playing favorites. The country worked hard to win admission to ASEAN. After serving as ASEAN’s chair in 2012, Cambodia will seek to become a non-permanent Asia representative at the United Nations Security Council from January 2013 to December 2014.
On the other hand, Cambodia is eager to expand its economic relationship with its largest investor. Cheam is a firm advocate of Chinese support and believes Cambodia will continue to thrive by cooperating with its giant neighbor. “China is a big country that respects the sovereignty of other nations,” he says. “To cooperate with China is to ensure peace and serenity in the region.” still, China’s continuing role as the leading investor in Cambodia and many other developing nations makes other regional and global powers nervous. “In the long term, China uses economic dependency to create strategic political influence,” Chheang says. For the moment, China and Vietnam are relatively balanced. But Cambodia’s challenge will be to maintain that equilibrium — and encourage others, from Asia and beyond, to assist in that process so no single power wrests too much control.
Without stronger infrastructure, Cambodia will remain a pawn in the geo-political strategies of great powers. Establishing stronger trade agreements and attracting foreign investors is at the top of Cambodia’s priority list. So far, China has obliged. To have more weight in Cambodia’s foreign policy considerations, the United States and other OECD countries should do the same.
Two days prior to the ASEAN summit in April, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Phnom Penh and pledged to double bilateral trade with Cambodia to $5 billion in the next five years. Some saw this as a move to keep the South China Sea dispute off the agenda. If that was the intent, the tactic failed. Hun Sen insisted the speculations were false. “There is no hindrance from China for discussion of these issues. The forum for discussions over the south China sea is between ASEAN and China,” the prime minister said. “We cannot solve the problem of the south China sea with outside countries. Cambodia will be proactive in stopping outside interference, as it leads to complications.”
Although the sea was discussed, there was no consensus on how to move ahead and include China in the negotiations. As ASEAN chair, Hun Sen took the opportunity to deride his critics during a press conference, insisting that China’s influence on his country was exaggerated, and Cambodia could not be bought by anyone.
Right now, the Friendship Building and Peace Building sit cheek-by- jowl in Phnom Penh, towering over the Boeung Kak Lake development site. A nearby motorist points at the Friendship Building and explains it was a Chinese gift for Prime Minister Hun Sen. Because the prime minister was paranoid that the office was bugged by the Chinese, he claims Hun Sen had a trusted Cambodian architect build the Peace Building next door. While Hun Sen is willing to accept Chinese gifts, he neither trusts nor relies on them.
Laura Rena Murray is an investigative journalist and aspiring muckraker based in San Francisco. She has written for local and international publications including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Caixin, and the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News
Everyday.com.kh, 10 May 2012
Seated under a wooden house in a remote part of Takeo province’s Bati district, a grey-haired man in a blue and grey shirt takes a cigarette from his pack and lights it.
Exhaling a cloud of white smoke, the thin man, named Prak Khan, begins to speak.
“I never told my bitter background to anybody in my village, even my wife,” he says. “They only know me as a banana seller.”
What his neighbours don’t know is that from 1976 to 1979, Prak Khan, 60, was an interrogator at the infamous S-21 detention centre.
Records from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-CAM) confirm that Prak Khan interrogated 51 prisoners, rewriting two of their confessions.
Some were high-level members of the Khmer Rouge purged from party ranks. Some were culled from the military, both Pol Pot’s and Lon Nol’s. Some were secretaries of districts and regions, and the rest were simply people accused of espionage by an increasingly paranoid Khmer Rouge leadership.
“My wife just found out when the ECCC invited me to testify on Case 001, so from now on, I have to speak out to let the young generation know about their history,” he says, his sadness plainly visible.
Prak Khan was born into a farming family in Takeo province, the oldest son out of five brothers and sisters. He worked on the farm feeding animals until 1971, when he joined the Khmer Rouge.
“Angkar [the Khmer Rouge’s shadowy leadership] said that if a man from the village did not serve as soldier for two or three years, women would not marry that man,” he says. “So, all the men joined Angkar.”
Prak Kahn was 17 years old, lured in, like many others, by the promise that he was fighting for his king and country.
“I was fighting bravely to protect the nation, but I never knew who my leader really was,” he says. “I only knew that I was fighting to get the country back for King Norodom Sihanouk. I only found out the names Khieu Samphan, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary when the Khmer Rouge controlled Phnom Penh.”
Prak Khan started working in Tuol Sleng in 1976, first as a guard, then as an interrogator when his superiors discovered he had an eighth-grade education.
He was one of 30 in his interrogator group; he received no training.
“Duch only allowed me to go along with the older interrogator and see what he did, and I followed him for a long time,” he says. “Then Duch let me start my job: one person questioning one person in a quiet place, trying to make the prisoner confess everything.”
With the prisoners’ confessions already in hand, Prak Khan says he didn’t ask specific questions. If the prisoners did not begin to confess, he would start to threaten them, then beat them with whip.
If the prisoner still didn’t confess, the torture escalated.
“For the prisoners who did not confess, we would put a plastic covering over their head and face, and stab a pin under their fingernail, so that they’d answer all the questions,” he explains.
The techniques, says Prak Khan, were up the interrogators.
“We used our own methods for getting answers, but for all the prisoners we tortured, we did not kill them, because we were afraid that we would lose their answers,” he says. “If the prisoner died, we were punished.”
Interrogations for one prisoner took two or three months, and were done in secret at all hours of the day and night, in a building separate from the main holding cells.
All the prisoners’ confessions were taken to Duch and Mam Nai, another interrogator, says Prak Khan, lighting another cigarette. Sometimes they were given back, along with orders to re-interrogate the prisoner because their answers were unsatisfactory.
“When I heard Duch was sentenced to spend his whole life in prison, it was justice, because victims’ families can accept that,” he sats. “If it wasn’t a whole life sentence, it would not be justice, because he ordered the killings of a lot of people in his regime.”
However, Prak Khan endorses Duch’s accusations against Nuon Chea.
“I know that what Duch said at the ECCC about Nuon Chea is true, because I saw Nuon Chea three or four times,” he says, calling Nuon Chea’s rebuttal a lie.
Nuon Chea, currently on trial before the ECCC, has vehemently denied he is responsible for the reign of terror that caused the deaths of a quarter of the population.
“He doesn’t want to be responsible for what he has done.”
After the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979, Prak Khan fled to Omlaing in Kampong Speu, not Thailand, as some records suggest.
He returned to his home province a year later, married, and raised four sons and one daughter.
Of the 30 interrogators from S-21, he is the only one left.
Prak Khan says a sense of responsibility for his own actions compelled him to cooperate fully with the ECCC when they asked for his testimony.
“I was a low-level officer, so I said what I knew from my job. There is nothing to be afraid of,” he says. “But if all the Khmer Rouge leaders try to keep silent, the young generation will not know anything about their history in the country.”