Chau Ny, who made tribunal history last year as the first ethnic Khmer Krom civil party to testify, is expected back in court today after he dramatically confronted defendant Khieu Samphan during his last appearance.
Ny’s testimony in November took a rare turn when he addressed Samphan about the fate of his uncle, Chau Sao, a prominent Khmer Krom banker and official during the 1960s and ’70s.
Ny said Samphan, who became president of the state presidium under the Khmer Rouge, “knew my uncle very well”.
“Where did he die? This is what I want to know,” Ny, a 60-year-old from Takeo province, asked. “If I know where he died, I can find his skeletal remains, so that I can carry out a religious ceremony for his soul.”
The hearing ended soon afterwards, but Samphan’s defence team recalled Ny to ask him more questions.
“They feel that this came up when they had not expected it, and they requested a recall, to cross-examine him with respect to Chau Sao,” said Vinita Ramani, co-founder of Access to Justice Asia and part of the legal team representing Ny. Ramani added that Ny’s actions set something of a precedent among civil parties.
“People realise, oh my god, there’s an opportunity to do something like this.”
Khmer Krom is a term applied to ethnic Cambodians with geographical ties to southern Vietnam. After the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, and as relations with Vietnam deteriorated, Cambodians identified as Khmer Krom were hunted down and killed.
Ny survived by concealing his background, going so far as to speak in a hard-to-trace accent to avoid being discovered. He lost his nephews and brother through starvation, he told the court. During his concluding “statement of suffering”, he unexpectedly switched courses to ask Samphan about his uncle.
After a brief back and forth between Samphan and Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn, in which Samphan appeared on the cusp of responding, he said he would answer all questions once the hearings on evidence in the case came to an end.