With each hour at court, the atrocities piled up. Listeners heard about soldiers who, while burying a woman alive, shouted taunts of reuniting her with relatives. There was the image drawn up from the far-off past of a distraught baby, bawling over a dead mother, and the story of a boy who died after eating the dirty biscuit from a dog’s mouth.
The second full session of victim impact hearings yesterday told of horror after horror experienced by the four civil parties, all women, who testified. After reading out statements and dabbing away tears, they collected themselves for a rare opportunity to question the two remaining defendants, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
In their responses, Samphan and Chea expressed sympathy for survivors while stopping short of accepting a shred of responsibility.
Samphan hewed closely to the familiar line that he saw no evil, heard no evil, knew no evil, despite characterising himself as an educated man.
He was head of state during the Khmer Rouge regime, a position he labeled nominal yesterday.
“I am an intellectual. I was not an ideologist of the Communist Party of Kampuchea,” he said, speaking to Thouch Phandara, 67, who lives in Paris and had just described the shame she felt by failing to save her parents after their bodies were thrown naked into a ditch.
“And I would also like to inform you,” Samphan continued, “that the leaders, some leaders of the Democratic Kampuchea government . . . considered me a highly educated intellectual, they considered my feet not attached to the ground, and I was considered useless.”
Answering a question about the purpose of self-criticism sessions during the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot’s Brother No 2 Nuon Chea said the goal was to “eradicate the bad elements, the non-compatriot element within ourselves. It is not to get rid of any individuals, but to get rid of the bad elements within us, but we should not get confused between the two points,” he said, speaking from his holding cell. “Early on, even I was confused.”
Chea said his family also suffered loss, so “why should I kill my own people and my relatives and my nation? I myself could not defend my own family members. After the liberation my mother said she was pushed to the ground during the evacuation.”
He seemed to grow impatient after taking questions following the testimony of civil party Chan Socheat, the second appearance of the day.
“I have clarified time and again that Democratic Kampuchea did not have have any policy to kill its own people, it did not have any policy whatsoever to deprive people of food,” he said.
Socheat lost more than a dozen members of her family, mostly through starvation.
The impact hearings continue today.