FORMER KR commander Nuon Paet looks likely to receive swift justice in his June
7 trial for the murder of three westerners in 1994 - the judge Buninh Bunnary
says she expects the case to be over by lunch time on the first day.
the result appears to be a foregone conclusion. When the investigating Judge Oum
Sarith was asked about Paet's chances of acquittal he said: "if Nuon Paet is
found not guilty his lawyer would have to be a super-lawyer like OJ Simpson's
Paet is facing six charges relating to the kidnapping and
subsequent murder of Briton Mark Slater, 28, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet and
Australian David Wilson, 29.
The three men were seized from a train in
Kampot on July 26, 1994, by the KR, and murdered after ransom negotiations
failed and a military attack on the area they were being held in failed to
secure their release.
Ten Khmers were killed in the initial attack on the
There are already indications that Nuon Paet is going to get
little more than a show trial, mainly for the benefit of relations with the
One diplomat said that the defense had been told not
to put up "a strong case because the prosecution does not have a strong
But he added that if the trial was not seen to be fair it is
unlikely to appease the deep feelings about the issue in the countries
A transcript of Sarith's questioning of Paet indicates his
defense will rely on placing responsibility for the attack and the deaths on to
his former commander Sam Bet, now a senior RCAF officer.
When Paet was
asked: "whose idea was it to take the three foreigners as hostages?" He replied:
"it was Sam Bet's idea, he was the regional commander. He ordered Veth Vorn to
gather 200 of our men to ambush the train but I did not participate. . . I
ordered the hostages not to be harmed."
Later in the interview he said he
stopped contact with Bet because Bet did not trust him because "I had released
Paet had released US citizen Melissa Himes, who was
working for Food for the Hungry when she was kidnapped and released in exchange
for 50 kilograms of rice and some agricultural equipment.
interview he said that he considered the hostages "international friends that we
must not harm."
He said that the actual killing was carried out by Veth
Vorn on the orders of Sam Bet. He said he asked Vorn why he killed the three men
and Vorn said: "'I received orders from Sam Bet the regional commander, not only
from you, they hid it from you."
However, Oum Sarith said that they
would be calling as a witness Ouk Bon, Paet's former bodyguard, who will testify
that he heard Paet give the order to kill the hostages.
attempts are underway to charge other former KR leaders for the train attack and
A letter from the prosecutor to Hun Sen sent earlier
this month has been obtained by the Post. It requests that Hun Sen remove the
immunity enjoyed by Sam Bet and Chhouk Rin, who was in charge of the attack on
The letter stated that there is evidence to lay charges under
criminal and anti-terrorism legislation against the two men.
Both men are
now members of RCAF, and are covered by a law that prohibits charges being laid
against government employees without the approval of their superiors.
far there has been no direct confirmation that Hun Sen has given the go
It is likely that the Government will face international pressure
to put more people on trial for the crimes particularly if Nuon Paet implicates
them in his own trial.
Australian Ambassador Malcolm Leader and British
Ambassador George Edgar said they have not requested specific people be tried,
but have always maintained to the Government their expectation that those people
responsible for the murder of their nationals would be brought to
The ambassadors refused to comment on the case, saying they
would wait and see what happened.
Sam Bet said that he was not worried by
a trial and would come to the court if summonsed. Chhouk Rin is also understood
to be prepared to stand trial, though he regards the train attack as having been
covered by the amnesty he received when he defected.
But both men are
likely to find their first experience of the court is in the witness box rather
than the dock.
Judge Buninh Bunnary said the court has issued summons
asking Sam Beh and Chhouk Rin to come to the trial as witnesses.
already sent the summons letters through the second bureau of the Ministry of
Defense," she said.
It is still to be seen how co-operative they would
be. Oum Sarith said that during the investigation Chhouk Rin and Sam Bith
avoided being interviewed by court officials.
"We summoned them. . . they
did not come," he said, adding that Bit had sent some written answers that were
passed on to the judge.