Examination of witnesses at the Khmer Rouge tribunal was abruptly cut short yesterday when former Khmer Rouge bodyguard Pean Khean became too ill to testify.
Pean Khean was unable to return to the courtroom after the 10:30am break and could not continue being questioned by the prosecution about the structure of the senior leadership of the Khmer Rouge, presiding judge Nil Nonn said.
Earlier that morning, Pean Khean, a Ratanakkiri ethnic- minority villager, failed to identify senior leaders of the regime in photographs presented to him by the prosecution, including one of his former boss, with whom he lived for about 10 years.
However, Pean Khean, now a carpenter in Takeo province, also app-eared not to be wearing a pair of thick spectacles he had donned in the courtroom on his first day of testimony on Wednesday.
He testified that he had lived in Pol Pot’s compound, K1, which he described as a residential complex near the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh, for about six months. He was tasked with tracking down vegetables for the cooks in the compound.
The prosecution, which requested extra time to question the important witness, has asked the Trial Chamber to prioritise elderly witnesses in the scheduling of Case 002.
“It is a practical reality in Cambodia that, with any witness or civil party who is over 70 years of age, the risk of unavailability to test-ify increases significantly with the passage of time,” the prosecution wrote in a motion filed last Monday.
“The average life expectancy of Cambodians is 61 years.”