THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
Vol. 12, No 1
January 3rd – 16th 2003
THE father of murdered Australian backpacker David Wilson has called for Khieu Samphan, former head of state in the Khmer Rouge regime, to stand trial for the 1994 killing of his son and two other tourists.
Peter Wilson’s comments came after former Khmer Rouge commander Sam Bith was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the attack on a train in Kampot. Around a dozen Cambodians died in the attack; the three backpackers were kidnapped and later killed.
Khieu Samphan was at the time president and minister of defense of the Party of Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge government in exile.
“It’s a bit of closure, and I think Sam Bith has got some guilt there, but I don’t think he was the main one ... I don’t believe that he is the total mastermind,” Peter Wilson told Melbourne’s The Age newspaper.
“I do believe that it goes higher up the ladder than that. [Sam Bith] is an old man, and I don’t think that he would get involved in something like that unless he was going to be rewarded somehow.”
Sam Bith was also ordered by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on December 23 to pay compensation to the families of his victims. Bith’s lawyer said he would appeal the decision.
The court found Bith was the regional commander when Wilson, Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michael Braquet were kidnapped before being executed two months later.
“Sam Bith was the mastermind who ordered the Khmer Rouge to commit these crimes,” said Judge Sok Sethamony. “Sam Bith was the man who ordered the killing of three foreigners.”
Three men have now been convicted for the slayings, with Bith the most senior. Bith’s deputy, Nuon Paet, was sentenced to life in prison 1999, and testified against his former boss.
Paet’s deputy, Chhouk Rin, is free pending his appeal against a life sentence handed down by the Appeal Court in September 2002.