The voice of Pol Pot yesterday filled the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as retired journalist Richard Dudman was played a recording of his and Elizabeth Becker’s famous 1978 interview of the secretive Democratic Kampuchea leader.
The recording was among evidence presented to Dudman, 96, during his second day of testimony via video link from the US, in a bid to jog the former St Louis Post-Dispatch reporter’s memory of details surrounding his December 1978 visit to the Kingdom.
In the clip, made just weeks before the Khmer Rouge was toppled by the Vietnamese, Pol Pot could be heard speaking Khmer with English translations added by Khmer Rouge official Tiounn Prasith.
He tells the American journalists that Vietnam, backed by Russia and Warsaw Pact countries, is “pushing for war” and wanted to capture Cambodia as part of Soviet expansionist plans, according to a transcript of the audio recording provided by Nuon Chea’s defence.
“This is carrying out of the Vietnamese strategy of Indochina Federation and the strategy of the Soviet in Southeast Asia and in the world,” Pol Pot says of Vietnam’s “aggressing” of Cambodia. Pol Pot also spoke of the problems his foes would face, saying that Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces were “very far from Cambodia” and “couldn’t rely on anything in Vietnam”.
However, Dudman said the recording didn’t spark any new recollections about the interview, among the few ever given to Westerners by Pol Pot.
Testifying for two hours, the former Washington bureau chief often cited memory loss when asked for specifics about the trip.
He recalled “the feeling of frustration” saying it was “really impossible at the time” to get satisfactory answers from his hosts, who tightly controlled the group, which was invited amid international reports of mass killings and atrocities.
Dudman also said he couldn’t be sure the worksites and communes his group toured were representative of the country’s overall situation, adding: “I suspected they were putting their best foot forward.”
Following Dudman’s evidence, which continues today, the chamber heard a motion by Chea’s team requesting more time to question civil parties on Thursday and Friday.