Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - KR weren’t ‘bad people’

KR weren’t ‘bad people’

KR weren’t ‘bad people’

Visitors attend a Case 002 hearing at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday.

On the first day of evidence, Nuon Chea, one-time chief ideologue of the Khmer Rouge, told judges hearing the landmark case against him that he understood the numerous charges he faced, but only managed to recount them in vague fashion as “war crimes    . . . and other wars . . . and crimes against humanity, perhaps”.

Minus his trademark dark glasses and woollen beanie, “Brother Number 2” then listened as Khmer Rouge tribunal Presiding Judge Nil Nonn ran down a litany of brutal crimes with which he is charged: “Crimes against humanity – including murder, extermination, enslavement, forced transfer, imprisonment, torture, rape, persecution on political or rac-ial grounds  . . . genocide  . . . grave breaches of  Geneva Conventions”.

Denouncing the accusations as “not correct and not right”, Nuon Chea continued to use his time on the stand to shape his version of history leading up to the violence and horror of the Khmer Rouge regime. The villain was a familiar one.

“It was Vietnam who killed Cambodians,” Nuon Chea said. “I don’t want people to think the Khmer Rouge are bad people or criminals. They are nationalists who wanted to liberate the country from Vietnam.”

During opening statements two weeks ago, Nuon Chea likened Vietnam to a python trying to strangle the young deer of Cambodia in order to consume it.

Yesterday, New Zealand Trial Chamber Judge Silvia Cartwright questioned the octogenarian for nearly two hours on the beginnings of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, which held bloody reign over Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

“It was the Vietnamese who set up and controlled the first Indochina Communist Party,” Nuon Chea said. “Cambodian people wanted to free ourselves from the control of Vietnam. Vietnam was really, really hated by Cambodians.

“I have to speak frankly because I believe that this court wants to find justice for the younger generation. And I want the younger generation to know who are our real enemies and who are our real friends.”

Cartwright, who led all the questioning yesterday, pointed out that despite Nuon Chea’s anti-Vietnamese sentiment, he had trained in Vietnam from 1951 to 1953. “I was lured,” was the elderly accused’s response.

Documentation Centre of Cambodia director Youk Chhang said the alleged former leader’s testimony showed he was “blind and mentally blocked”.

“In July, 1975, the Khmer Rouge leaders received their first foreign delegation – and it was the Vietnamese,” Youk Chhang said yesterday.

“[Nuon Chea] has failed to see that his regime sacrificed nearly two million lives, but defends this as party policy against Vietnam invasion.”

Nuon Chea also testified yesterday that Tou Samouth, the original Communist Party chief who was replaced by Pol Pot, was interrogated, tortured and eventually executed by soldiers of the US-backed Lon Nol regime.

However, his testimony of the events surrounding Tou Samouth’s disappearance were disparate from the account he gave Post journalist Teth Sambath during a series of interviews in 2006 and 2007.

Tou Samouth mysteriously disappeared in 1962 and hard evidence of his fate has never been revealed, although conspiracy theories abound.

One popular theory is that of historian Ben Kiernan, who believed Pol Pot himself killed Tou Samouth as part of a takeover plot.


  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • China-Cambodia tourism forum held

    The Cambodian tourism sector must be prepared to welcome a growing number of Chinese tourists, as they lead the globe in the number of outbound travellers and were responsible for the most visitors to the Kingdom last year, the country’s tourism minister said on