Saloth Ban’s testimony yesterday at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal frequently sidestepped questions from the prosecution and contradicted previous statements he had made to investigators.
In an unusual beginning to the day, Saloth Ban explained that Lok Ta Dambong Dek, the Khmer guardian spirit of justice, had appeared to him in a dream and told him that the tribunal was “unjust” and that he did not need to answer questions that did not make him “happy”.
This prompted Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn to respond: “Your dream is a superstition and it cannot be used in the court of law.”
Toward the end of the day, Nil Nonn had to instruct the former Khmer Rouge secretary general of the ministry of foreign affairs to “compose” himself after he began rambling, unprovoked, about “the enemy who intends to destroy the world”.
For much of the day, senior assistant prosecutor Vincent de Wilde focused on the process of internal purges within Democratic Kampuchea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, trying to determine former Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary’s complicity in such matters.
In an exchange that was typical of Saloth Ban’s contradictory statements throughout the day, de Wilde asked him whether Ieng Sary convened meetings to discuss the arrests of foreign ministry staffers.
“There were no meetings,” Saloth Ban replied.
De Wilde then produced statements Saloth Ban had given to tribunal investigators in 2007 in which the witness stated that Ieng Sary had “convened meetings to discuss these issues [internal enemies]”.
In another exchange, de Wilde attempted to determine whether Ieng Sary was aware of the arrests of foreign ministry personnel.
When Saloth Ban said he did not know whether the former foreign minister was privy to such matters, de Wilde again presented previous statements Saloth Ban had given to investigators in which he said that Ieng Sary did indeed have knowledge of such arrests.
“This is what you said, and I quote, ‘When cadres and members of the staff of the foreign ministry were arrested, Ieng Sary was … aware of it, however, he never said anything about that, he himself was afraid’,” de Wilde told Saloth Ban.
“Do you confirm that is what you stated?” de Wilde followed.
“I agree to the statement,” Saloth Ban replied.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at [email protected]nompenhpost.com