Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Duch, defence teams spar

Duch, defence teams spar

Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his alias Duch, gives his testimony yesterday. ECCC
Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his alias Duch, gives his testimony yesterday. ECCC

Duch, defence teams spar

Former S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday that if he had known the true threat Vietnamese troops posed to the regime in 1979, he would have destroyed the deadly prison.

Eav, better known as Duch, said he was instructed by Case 002 defendant and Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan to continue working as usual, and not to destroy the slew of photographs and documents produced at the prison where more than 12,000 were sent to their deaths.

“If I knew about that, then I would have destroyed the prison. That is the fact,” Duch said. On the eleventh – and what was expected to be the final – day of testimony from Duch, tensions ran high.

Victor Koppe, defence laywer for former “Brother Number 2” Nuon Chea, waded through delays and confusion as he confronted the witness with documents in which 10 Khmer Rouge combatants claimed there was a planned coup to overthrow Pol Pot.

The scheming for an uprising is a core part of Chea’s defence, which claims the threat of a Vietnamese-backed rebellion from within fuelled the ensuing internal purges. But Duch dampened Koppe’s evidence, saying he had never heard of alleged rebel plans to storm Pochentong Airport or Radio Phnom Penh.

“I believe this statement is rather imaginative; it is surreal,” Duch said. As the day’s final session began, Koppe began his questioning with: “Mr Witness, let’s see if you can sabotage this one as well.” Koppe withdrew the remark after objections from the prosecution, but proceeded to spar with the bench, accusing trial chamber president Nil Nonn of assisting the sabotage. “It’s a travesty here,” Koppe said.

Duch also took a shot at defence lawyer for Khieu Samphan Anta Guisse, who repeatedly pressed him for clarity on his long and sometimes convoluted answers. “I believe that is clear enough [for] someone who has a brain to think,” Duch said.

He said that while “S-21 was the anti-spy unit, and the [Vietnamese were] considered spies and we had to purge all those reactionary elements”, there was no document or policy explicitly outlining a targeted attack on Vietnamese people, former Lon Nol soldiers, or Cham Muslims – three groups the accused are charged with systematically killing.

“No, there was no policy to exterminate Cham people, and if a Cham committed a mistake, he or she would be arrested,” Duch said.

Prosecutor Dale Lysak, however, pointed out a former statement in which Duch admitted that, though he saw no document to that effect, Lon Nol soldiers were nevertheless “systematically eliminated”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 foreigners in Cambodia, the bulk being from the UK, have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly them out of the Kingdom. The petition is targeted at 15,000 foreigners. Among them are nearly 200 Europeans, the majority

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • PM set to mend ties with US

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to US Congressman Ted Yoho, saying he is ready to improve Cambodia-US relations, and not take up issues of disagreements which have become a barrier between the two countries’ bilateral cooperation. His response to Yoho came after the congressman

  • Mysterious century-old structure found at bottom of Angkor pond

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a mysterious 1,000-year-old structure of a wooden building at the bottom of a pond after the Angkor Wat temple’s conservation team completed restoring its northern cave. The deputy director at ANA’s Angkor International Research and Documentation