Two tenants of the Royal Palace during the Khmer Rouge regime who attended the tribunal yesterday have polarized views on the culpability of former president and one-time Royal Palace resident Khieu Samphan.
In a simple blue shirt and sampot, 60-year-old Sar Socheat looked like an ordinary middle-class woman, not the wife of an ex-president who once lived under the same roof as King Father Norodom Sihanouk.
“My husband is a well educated man, who would never deal in betrayal, corruption or bribery,” Sar Socheat told the Post yesterday. “He never joined in any of the killing – what he has done is for the interest of the nation, for territorial integrity, the honour of the nation.”
Khieu Samphan’s wife was emotional at times while attending yesterday’s hearing with the couple’s youngest son, who is studying in Phnom Penh.
“I would like the court to find the truth about who is actually responsible for the killing,” Sar Socheat said of the court’s work to unravel the truth of the Khmer Rouge regime more than three decades ago.
“If the court needs me to testify in the case, then I will do it,” she said, adding she visited her husband about once a week.
However, another former resident of the Royal Palace, former Royal Palace cook Meas Channa, was not so quick to jump to Khieu Samphan’s defence.
“I always saw Khieu Samphan and the other two [Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary] holding meetings and sharing lunch together,” the 49-year-old said, adding that the former president would always do the food ordering for guests.
Meas Channa was just 14 years old when she was forced to begin working long hours as a cook in the Royal Palace where the King Father and Khieu Samphan resided.
“I think the charges against him are right,” she said, “He [Khieu Samphan] and others leaders gave orders to their people to do everything.”
Meas Channa told the Post she worked for Khieu Samphan at the Royal Palace for nearly a year and described her employer as a “strict and serious person”.
“It is the first time I have seen him in more than 30 years, I see he looks very old,” she said.