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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Three of the accused speak out: report's findings refuted

Three of the accused speak out: report's findings refuted

The Post attempted to interview six of the seven individuals - excluding imprisoned

Ta Mok -who were subjects of the report "Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability

for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge". Ieng Sary refused an interview, Khieu Samphan

declined to speak on the record and Sou Met was unavailable. Interviews with Nuon

Chea, Ke Pauk and Meas Muth were conducted in Khmer by Vong Sokheng, Bou Saroeun

and Christine Chaumeau.

Nuon Chea speaks: "Do I look like a killer?"

Interview with Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the CPK Central Committee.

By Christine Chaumeau and Vong Sokheng

Post: According to [former S-21 chief] Duch, during a meeting you ordered him

to kill 300 soldiers.

Nuon Chea: I do not know [about that] because I was not in charge of the military.

I was in charge of the National Assembly, so I had no duty or role in the military

and internal security matters of the country. In the organization, there was a military

committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, with Pol Pot and Son Sen and many

other people who were responsible. Pol Pot was chairman on the committee. I was in

charge of the education and the National Assembly, from the beginning.

Post: According to Duch and to telegrams you received as a member of the Standing

Committee of the CPK, you were sent the confessions of [S-21] prisoners to review


Chea: I don't know what you are talking about. I was not responsible for that.

[...] I was responsible for education. I did not have the right to give orders, to

make any decision. I could not decide about arrest and torture. My duty was to educate,

to build human resources, to promote the comrades of the Party. But it is normal

that the person who educates is hated and loved at the same time. I educated people

not to commit crimes, not to steal property. I never gave orders to my comrades to

torture or to commit crimes because it contradicts my ideals for the party.

Post: You received the confession of Nheum Sim made in October 1977.

Chea: Nheum Sim? I do not know?

Post: Alias Saut?
A : Saut, yes.

Post: The interrogator said that he [Nheum Sim] confessed after he tortured


Chea: I do not remember. I was not sent confessions. What is Tuol Sleng anyway?

I do not know. At that time, I never went there. I still do not know where is Tuol


Post: According to the documents in the report, that are held by the Documentation

Center, the telegrams sent to you from the lower ranks contained many references

to 'smashing' and 'sweeping away the enemy'?

Chea: Do you believe the Documentation Center? Do you believe what is written

by [Documentation Center of Cambodia director] Youk Chhang? Do you believe they are

searching for truth? I would like to show you one document made by Youk Chhang. [Nuon

Chea gets up and goes to his room. He comes back with Issue 18 of Searching For The

Truth, published by the Documentation Center in June 2001.] Look here, they published

a statement [they said] I made in front of the Farmers Party of Denmark. Look in

this paragraph, they say 'Sir'. In the [CPK] party, we never used the word 'Sir'

- we used comrade. I never gave this statement. [Nuon Chea points at a photograph

in the magazine.] Where did they get my picture from? I have never allowed anyone

to take my picture. I do not know where they picked up this picture. At that time,

I never gave public statements. What is the truth? Where did they find it?

Post: [According to the report, there were] telegrams from committees addressed

to Brother Nuon requesting authorization to conduct executions.

Chea: I never received or read such telegrams. Some people were responsible. You

have to understand the principle of the organization of the Party. I did not know

[about this], because I was responsible for education and we never produced a law

to kill the people. I was thinking about how to solve the problem, to help the people

in order to give them better living conditions.

Post: The report says that you took part in designing the policies against

the three "enemies" of the regime: ex-soldiers of the Khmer Republic, the

non-communist population, and the anti-CPK cadre.

Chea: No. During that time the most important duty was to fight, to struggle to

save the nation in order to reach unity, independence and territorial integrity.

Some people died because of illness and starvation but it never went up to millions

of people. After five years in war, the US bombings with the B-52s, there were many

killed. I do not want to dig up the issue, to talk again, because there is [reconciliation]

now. If I talk about it again, it is useless. If we talk about this time, we have

to remember that to any act there is a consequence. If I talk about it, it will never

end. Now, the nation needs to be united and integrated into the world. The US, Britain

and many others countries now help Cambodia, even Vietnam that used to have problems

with Cambodia [is helping us]. Khmer and Khmer are back together. If we dig it up

again, we will have new problems. Now we need to think long-term, to look at the

future. We have to think about the interest of the nation. Now, Khmer should not

look back at the history with Vietnam because for two hundred years Vietnam and Cambodia

have had problems.

Post: The trial will look at these issues of the past and your responsibility

for what happened?

Chea: I do not know why you ask such a question, I would like to talk about unity

and you ask about the trial. If you talk about it, we also have to talk about the

quality of the tribunal.

Post: For you, what is a good trial, of what standard?

Chea: In the world there is no justice. Look at the La Fontaine Fable of the Wolf

and the Sheep [a French fable with the moral that whoever has the greatest power

shall be the victor]. The truth exists and nobody can suppress the truth. For each

action, one has to look for the reason behind it. The truth is that the US allowed

Lon Nol to have a coup d'etat to topple Sihanouk in 1970, then the problems started.

This is the truth. There is a reason and there is a result. And if you would like

to make a problem with the Khmer Rouge, you have to ask questions to the United Nations

who recognized the Khmer Rouge.

Post: What about your life? Do you have any regrets?

Chea: No I have no regrets I have fulfilled my duty for the nation.

Post: Are you worried about your karma?

Chea: Yes, I believe [in karma.] I have never commited a bad thing. I always did

good things. I thought about the living conditions of the people and how to solve

their problems. If I were bad, I would not be here in this difficult situation now.

I am honest with my people and my nation.

Post: Some Cambodians really want to hear an explanation from you about what

happened then.

Chea: There was a destroying group. The Party wanted to give rice three times

a day for the people and dessert one time a week. But one group destroyed all our

plans. They were the enemy. They were doing everything as they wanted.

Post: Why did Khmer kill Khmer?

Chea: Khmer? We have to make sure who is Khmer. [Those who committed killings]

were not the Khmer who worked for the Party but the Khmer who worked for the foreigners.

Post: You said there was a destroying group. Who was the enemy? How many enemies

were within this group?

Chea: I cannot estimate. I do not know. I do not want to say what I do not know.

Now, I am weak because I am 76 years old. It is not as before. I do not want to write

my autobiography. If you want to know if I am bad or wrong you should ask the people

rather than ask me. I have two ways, The first is to become a monk forever and the

other way is to join the revolution. I actually think the two ways are similar. Both

hate injustice.

Post: Do you regret not to have joined the monkhood?

Chea: I do not regret that because even if I do not join the monkhood, I still

respect the five principles of the Buddha: do not kill; do not cheat; do not steal;

do not steal the woman of the other people; be honest, do not lie; do not drink alcohol

or use drug such as yabaa[amphetamines].

Post: You talk about the rule of not killing, but you were a member of a group

that is responsible for the death of two million Cambodians?

Chea: It is not my group. It is not the Democratic Kampuchea who killed the people.

After the war, the country was poor. I tried to solve the problems for people to

have food, clothes, good health but we could not do as we wanted because, as I said

before, a group destroyed our intention. The party was not one piece of iron, united.

Post: Those documents prove that you knew about the killings and the torture

that were going on at the time?

Chea: I did not know about the torture and the killings. Any people can produce

such documents afterwards.

Post: Duch said that you attended a meeting in the first half of 1978 when

the decision to purge the Eastern zone was made.

Chea: If there was a meeting, it was not public, it was secret. Duch just said


Post: According to you, how many people were killed [during the Khmer Rouge


Chea: Many people were killed during the war, the 300 days and nights of theB-52

bombings, then during the Vietnamese occupation and the K5 plan [State of Cambodia

plan to mobilize civilians in forced defence labor]. Why do we only talk about Tuol

Sleng? Who organized Tuol Sleng? Anyone can organize Tuol Sleng. May be there was

some killing but never as many as two million. Who can kill that many people? I dared

to give up my whole life for the revolution, but not to kill people. Why should I

kill my people?

Post: Because the revolution failed?

Chea: No. This was not the policy of the CPK.

Post: But this was the result.

Chea: How do you know? Anyone can write documents afterwards to defame. I admit

some people were killed but not millions. They died from diseases, illness, and starvation.

Many documents were fake and this is why I say there is no justice in this world.

Post: The tribunal will ask what is your responsibility?

Chea: Yes, I am preparing myself for this eventuality.

Post: The tribunal will ask only one question: what is your responsibility.

Chea: Who saw me kill people? It might be difficult to prove. I was in the movement

but I was not responsible. Pol Pot and Son Sen were the ones who decided. I had no

role in security. It is not the patriots who killed the people but those who betrayed

the nation. I do not know who was behind it. If I say, there will be a problem with

national reconciliation.

Post: Are you ready to go to trial?

Chea: I am afraid my health will be a big problem. I feel weak. [But] I think

there will not be war if there is a trial. The people of Cambodia like peace, independence.

They never started a war. They never invaded other countries but other countries

invade [Cambodia].

Post: But how can you say that you did not know about the killings, when you

were one of the top leaders?

Chea: Do I look like a killer? [laughs, saying the words 'a killer' in English]

Post: Yes. If we look at the documents and listen to the testimonies of many

Cambodians, you were part of the decision-making process that killed many people.

Chea: The decisions were taken by security and military officials. I was in charge

of education. I gave advice to the leaders who were not good. The people in charge

of education did not have the power to kill people. I could not give orders to Duch.

I never met Duch. I do not know who was in charge of Tuol Sleng. I discovered Tuol

Sleng afterwards and I do not know S-21. Son Sen was in charge of the security, not


Post: Cambodians need an explanation for what happened during the KR.

Chea: I regret that I could not fulfill my promise to the people about providing

food and clothes. Many people are still in a difficult situation and Hun Sen makes

effort to develop the country for the good of the people. The country is developing

step by step. The people in power always want to develop the nation but they cannot

do. I am old now and I take care of myself as a normal citizen. I just want to see

my children having enough. I just want to say that I feel pain about the group of

people who killed my people.



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