Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chea defence calls for PM, other leaders to testify at KRT

Chea defence calls for PM, other leaders to testify at KRT

Victor Koppe, international lawyer for Nuon Chea, appears at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in 2014. ECCC
Victor Koppe, international lawyer for Nuon Chea, appears at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in 2014. ECCC

Chea defence calls for PM, other leaders to testify at KRT

The defence team for Nuon Chea has called for senior government and military figures – including Prime Minister Hun Sen – to appear before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

In a submission made public on Monday, the defence argued that delving into the extent of a “treasonous rebellion” backed by Vietnam was crucial to ensure their client, the Khmer Rouge’s brother number two, was given a fair trial.

The defence requested the court summons 35 witnesses – four of them top-ranking government leaders, and three from the armed forces, as well as filmmaker Robert Lemkin.

“Deciding not to summons the requested witnesses will effectively and finally prevent Nuon Chea from presenting his defence altogether,” the filing read. “This will constitute a straightforward violation of . . . Nuon Chea’s right to a fair trial.”

Chea’s international lawyer, Victor Koppe, said the matter was not just about calling high-profile witnesses, but was also the defence’s “final chance” to present its case to the public.

“We haven’t been able to do anything in the last nine years . . . we were never allowed to do our own investigation – that was strictly forbidden,” he said.

The submission stated: “Following its 1978 invasion, Vietnam occupied Cambodia for a decade [and] installed a loyal puppet government that is still effectively in power today.”

Koppe said that he was “pessimistic” the witnesses would be called, and doubted high-profile ones would appear if summonsed.

“They are afraid that we will expose their role,” Koppe said, alluding to the crushing of a Cham rebellion and the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh, in which the defence says current National Assembly President Heng Samrin played a part.

When asked if the submission politicised the trial, Koppe responded: “This trial is 100 per cent political to start with . . . it’s impossible not to get political.”

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said parliamentarians had immunity to not appear before the court.

He added that the court should focus its attention on why the regime executed almost 2 million of its own people. “It’s a strategy by the defence to raise the issue of the Vietnamese as a scapegoat to deviate the focus of the [tribunal],” Siphan said.

Trial observer Heather Ryan described the filing as “an extended critique of the trial”.

“The court has the difficult task of evaluating the relevance of the requested witnesses without being influenced by any of political pressure that has influenced past decisions not to summon witnesses with political influence or connections,” she said via email.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (