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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Expert insists remains were not manipulated

Witness Voeun Vuthy testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan late last year. ECCC
Witness Voeun Vuthy testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan late last year. ECCC

Expert insists remains were not manipulated

Expert witness Voeun Vuthy concluded his testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, once again flatly denying a previous suggestion from the defence that the skeletal record of executions at Choeung Ek could have been manipulated.

Vuthy, an archaeologist who has researched and testified on the number of human remains at the site and their likely causes of death, said yesterday that his team could scientifically determine whether or not a skeleton at Choeung Ek had been moved from another location.

“I have not yet seen any evidence that the victims were exhumed and then reburied,” he said. “We can examine the mud in the small holes of the bones,” he continued, noting that soil samples from bones consistently matched that of the grave site.

Last month, Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer Victor Koppe had suggested that Vietnamese soldiers may have planted extra remains in the mass graves.

Khieu Samphan defender Anta Guisse yesterday asked how Vuthy’s team could determine whether bones were from the Khmer Rouge era and how they could be sure marks on the bones were blunt trauma and not accidental marks from previous amateur excavations.

“With modern technology, we are able to establish that,” Vuthy said, before admitting it was difficult for him to explain the “technical methodology” to the court. But, he said, “No one can manipulate the evidence.”

After Vuthy’s testimony ended, Guisse responded to lead co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian’s exhaustive rebuttal of key documents she had presented in an attempt to distance her client from the atrocities committed under his regime.

Guisse once again repeated claims that Samphan may simply have been unaware of the extent of the crimes, asserting that regional leaders lied in their reports to the central leadership.

In a New York Times interview, then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk described the communes as “concentration camps” after a tour of the countryside with Khieu Samphan. But as Guisse pointed out yesterday, in a separate interview in France, Sihanouk claimed he saw nothing amiss during that tour.

“We need to note that there were contradictory statements,” she said.

Guisse also turned to standing committee minutes to justify the regime’s controversial exportation of rice while its citizens starved en masse.

“We have to buy a lot of things, but we have very little capital, so we have to resolve the issues of living conditions with very little resources,” Guisse quoted from the minutes, saying the exports were meant to fund things like medicine to help the people.

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