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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Wilson family - now try Khieu Samphan

Wilson family - now try Khieu Samphan

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


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


Three men have now been convicted for the slayings, with Bith the most senior. Bith's

deputy, Nuon Paet, was jailed for life in 1999, and testified against his former


Paet's deputy, Chhouk Rin, is free pending his appeal against a life sentence handed

down by the Appeal Court in September 2002.

But Wilson expressed skepticism at the government's motives in pursuing the three

while allowing more senior Khmer Rouge to live freely.

"If Chhouk Rin loses his appeal, I think that that's as far as they will be

willing to go, which means they'll have Paet, Chhouk Rin and Sam Bith," he said.

"I think they want to end it. I think that the Cambodian government is trying

to finish the whole job now."

Sethamony also dismissed the testimony of Bith's star defense witness, former 'Brother

Number Two' Nuon Chea, as "groundless and unacceptable". He had come to

the capital from Pailin to appear at the trial.

Chea had testified that Bith had been relieved of his duties and sent to a Thai hospital

at the time of the attack. But hospital authorities told the court that the hospital

did not open until four months after the ambush took place.

"How could they be so sloppy as to pick a hospital that wasn't even in existence

at the time of the killings?" asked George Cooper, legal advisor to the family

of Mark Slater.

Australian Ambassador Louise Hand welcomed the verdict.

"It's a very significant step forward for achieving justice in this case and

its something the Australian government has been working towards for a very long

time," she said.



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