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Chhouk Rin 'won't use amnesty defense'

The lawyer for former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin has said his client will not

use the controversial amnesty defense when his case reaches the Appeal Court on August

28.

The appeal was lodged after Rin was cleared two years ago of the kidnapping and murder

of three Western backpackers following a train attack in 1994. More than a dozen

Cambodians were also killed in the raid.

The court at Rin's first hearing in July 2000 ruled that an amnesty provision in

the 1994 law that outlawed the KR applied to him. That decision was widely criticized

by legal and human rights groups, as well as the relatives of the three Westerners

- Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, Briton Mark Slater, and Australian David Wilson.

The three were murdered several months after being taken from the Sihanoukville-bound

train.

"This legal case will be worked out as a normal crime, because it will be a

re-trial and the defense is based on UNTAC law [which does not provide for amnesties].

The defense will be based on innocence," said his lawyer, Puth Theavy.

He added that his client would admit to taking part in the attack, but was not involved

in either the kidnappings or the killings.

Before his first trial two years ago Rin admitted responsibility for the attack,

but retracted that at the hearing and claimed he was in hospital when it took place.

As it turned out, the court ignored the details, and ruled that as he had defected

during the six month amnesty window, he was untouchable.

Theavy and Chhouk Rin told the Post on July 25 they were confident he would again

be acquitted providing the appeal was handled properly and the government did not

submit to international pressure.

"I would like to appeal to donor countries not to put pressure on the government,"

said Theavy. "It will affect the trial if they do. If donor countries do not

interfere or pressure the government, I will be able to seek justice for my client."

Rin agreed with his lawyer.

"As long as the trial follows proper legal procedures, I will win the case just

as I did at the municipal court," Rin said.

He insisted he was innocent, claiming he was too far down the chain of command to

be involved and "had joined the government already when the three foreigners

were killed".

The only person convicted to date for the deaths of the Westerners is former KR commander

Nuon Paet, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 1999. Both Chhouk Rin and

Sam Bith, who was arrested earlier this year and is awaiting trial, appeared as witnesses

at Paet's hearing.

Rin said he was worried the Western victims' parents and their countries wanted revenge,

not proper justice. He said the Cambodian judicial system "has been doing good

work - let it continue to work for peace".

A former KR colonel in Kampot, who is an associate of Rin's, told the Post Rin was

instrumental in the reintegration of KR forces and should be left alone.

"I'm not that concerned about [the appeal] because Chhouk Rin didn't do anything

wrong," he said. "If you accuse anyone you should accuse Pol Pot.

"I believe very strongly that if foreigners stop wrangling with Cambodian affairs,

Cambodians can live in harmony," he said. "Foreigners should stop involving

themselves in Cambodian affairs - if they prosecute the Khmer Rouge, shouldn't they

prosecute the US for dropping 4 million bombs? Is that fair?"

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