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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lawyer says witness ‘fed’ memories in Khmer Rouge court

Lawyer says witness ‘fed’ memories in Khmer Rouge court

An otherwise routine cross-examination at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday began with the defence teams for both Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary questioning the methods of the co-investigators responsible for collecting witnesses’ official pre-trial statements.

First, Jasper Pauw, defence counsel for Nuon Chea, sought to demonstrate that over the course of her interviews with co-investigators, witness Sa Siek was made aware of matters that she would have otherwise been unable to testify about.

Pauw quoted passages from the former Ministry of Propaganda employee’s 2009 official statement to the court in which she denied remembering “anything like” Democratic Kampuchea-era radio broadcasts of the imperative to “conserve our forces to the maximum” and that each “one of us had to kill 30 Vietnamese; if we did that, we would surely win.”

Yesterday, however, the witness said that her testimony over the previous days had jump-started her memory.

“And I did remember such an educational broadcast to the soldiers back then.”

Siek maintained that she had truthfully told investigators in 2009 she had forgotten the broadcasts.

Pauw responded by announcing that his team would be filing a request to transcribe “relevant parts” of the interview.

“We believe we will show that certain information was fed to the witness, so that she can now testify to matters that she was not aware of in 2009,” he said.

Michael Karnavas, defence counsel for Ieng Sary, also took a jab at co-investigators, citing a subtle discrepancy between a signed summary of Siek’s statement to the court and her testimony.

Yesterday, Siek acknowledged the “irregularity,” which concerned whether she had seen Ieng Sary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the day of the fall of Phnom Penh – a sighting that would have been impossible, Siek said yesterday, given that on that date “there was no ministry”.

“Now we have a witness – and we are grateful – that has recognised the irregularity and corrected it,” said Karnavas, calling the documents’ presumed accuracy into question.

Siek explained that she had missed the mistake because she had been “fatigued” when she reviewed her statement.

At the end of her testimony, the court called ex-Ministry of Propaganda employee Kim Vun to the stand. His testimony continues today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at



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