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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness gives emotional 'tell-all' in Khmer Rouge court

Witness gives emotional 'tell-all' in Khmer Rouge court

The wife of co-accused Khieu Samphan paid a visit to witness Sa Siek in 2010 to tell her and her late husband not to conceal anything from investigators with the Office of Co-Investigating Judges, according to testimony yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

A former Ministry of Propaganda employee and member of an arts unit, Siek said that the Khmer Rouge head of state’s wife, So Socheat, also wanted to learn more about places that Khieu Samphan had visited, but Siek didn’t go into any more detail. She did not mention Khieu Samphan’s wife by name.

How Siek came into the orbit of one of the three elderly leaders accused of war crimes was not clear. She told the prosecution yesterday that she got to know him and his family members “after 1979”.

She told the court that she saw Samphan briefly at the Ministry of Propaganda in 1975, just after the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh that April.

“He came to the propaganda section, and was seen sitting on a steel bed,” she remembered. “He stayed in the area with the other people who worked at the location; he spent a few days and nights there.”

“I think perhaps he chatted with people, and I believe it was immediately after the liberation. He just spent a few nights there and left.”

When Khieu Samphan’s wife visited the couple decades later, she encouraged them to be open with their memories, “that if investigators ask any questions about Khieu Samphan, we had to tell the whole truth.”

Calls to Socheat to try and confirm that the meeting took place or that she made these comments were not returned. She has, however, defended her husband’s innocence in the past.

Trial President Judge Nil Nonn adjourned a little early as Siek began to break down and became emotional. The strong feelings were provoked by questions from the prosecution about colleagues who disappeared forever from the ministry where she worked.

Judge Nonn also ordered that Siek be provided support from counselors who work with witnesses under emotional stress.

Testimony from Suong Sikoeun, a former Ministry of Foreign Affairs employee who has been taking the stand only in the morning due to fatigue, will testify again on Monday.

Siek is scheduled to continue testifying in the afternoon.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Freeman at joseph.freeman@phnompenhpost.com

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