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Khmer Rouge court witnesses' meeting scrutinised

Defence lawyers yesterday returned to the subject of Khmer Rouge tribunal witness Suong Sikoeun’s meetings with fellow witness Rochoem Tun as they sought to establish what motivation he may have had for asking Tun about his testimony before the court.

Michael Karnavas, defence counsel for former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary, questioned Sikoeun, a member of Ieng Sary’s inner circle during the regime, on when he had met with Tun, also known as Phy Phuon, and at whose suggestion, seemingly seeking to determine whether the two had colluded on their testimony.

“I met [Phuon] on two occasions. First, before he left for Phnom Penh from Malai, he met me at my home in Malai,” Sikoeun said, noting that at that meeting, Phuon had provided him with a copy of an interview he had granted to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.

In his August 14 testimony, Sikoeun said he had wanted to “ask [Phuon] the likely questions I would be asked in court so I could be well prepared”, a position he reiterated yesterday.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to remember everything, as it happened a long time ago,” the elderly witness, who has been plagued by ill-health and fatigue throughout his multi-day testimony, said.

According to the court, the Witness and Expert Support Unit (WESU), the group managing logistics for those coming to testify, strongly discourages witnesses from speaking to one another about court matters. However, WESU’s contact with witnesses is limited until they take witnesses to Phnom Penh to testify, something that occurred after Sikoeun and Phuon’s first meeting.

Referring to Sikoeun’s testimony from August 15, Karnavas noted that a WESU representative had been present at the pair’s second meeting at a hotel in Phnom Penh, a fact confirmed by court spokesman Lars Olsen.

“There was a WESU rep there, and the reason the WESU rep was there was to monitor that they did not discuss case-related issues,” he told the Post.

The defence spent the rest of Sikoeun’s testimony trying to prove that the Khmer Rouge regime’s decision-making power rested with Pol Pot, not the witness’s former boss, Ieng Sary.

In the afternoon, the court called to the stand former Ministry of Propaganda arts unit member Sa Siek. Her testimony continues today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at stuart.white@phnompenhpost.com

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