Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prosecution closes with proverb

Prosecution closes with proverb

Co-prosecutors Chea Leang (left) and her deputy Seng Bunkheang (right), at the closing statement for Case 002/02 last week.
Co-prosecutors Chea Leang (left) and her deputy Seng Bunkheang (right), at the closing statement for Case 002/02 last week. ECCC

Prosecution closes with proverb

Rebuttals at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday turned from law to folklore, where, for the last time, the prosecution presented their case for why former leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan should be found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Former Brother Number Two Chea and head of state Samphan stand accused of a slew of crimes, including murder, extermination, genocide and other inhumane acts, such as forced marriage.

Chiding the defence for their invocation of a Khmer proverb to cast the Khmer Rouge leaders as a goat blamed by a farmer for eating his food, when in fact a monkey (or, in this case, the Vietnamese) had framed the goat by smearing food on its face, Assistant Prosecutor Dale Lysak said the proverb would have taken on a dark twist if set during the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Fortunately for that goat, the farmer who found him with food on his face was not Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan or Pol Pot,” Lysak said.

The Khmer Rouge leaders would not have just blamed the goat – they would have “smashed” the goat, arrested the monkey for espionage and sedition, and killed all their offspring, he said.

“That is the sad reality of how things worked in Democratic Kampuchea,” Lysak added, referring to the “callous disregard for life” of the two accused. “It is a story I hope is never repeated in this country again.”

Prior to Lysak’s stand, Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian attempted to pour cold water on theories long espoused by the defence, namely that zone leaders Sao Phim and Rous Nhim had been plotting against Pol Pot.

Koumjian said Chea’s version of events was untrue and that actions taken by Phim made no sense if he was indeed plotting a military coup. Even if there was such a resistance, he added, that did not justify any of the extrajudicial execution under the Khmer Rouge.

He also slammed the defence’s use of a confession from the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 prison. Koumjian stressed that confessions gleaned under torture were not admissible as evidence, as they are inherently unreliable and could encourage the use of torture.

“He should not be allowed to try again to profit from the blood of those who were tortured at S-21 and other security centres,” Koumjian said, referring to Chea.

He argued Samphan and Chea were well aware of the horrific conditions the people of Democratic Kampuchea were subjected to, and showed a video of Chea saying that when he realised simple villagers were being slaughtered en masse, he said, “I just went on with my work and I didn’t jot it down,” and laughed.

Co-Prosecutor Chea Leang defended the court’s reputation against claims of bias, which have featured prominently over the past week during the defence’s closing statements. “No one who reads the appeal judgment, which made several findings highly favourable to the accused, could believe this court was set up with a pre-determined outcome,” Leang said.

The appeal judgment for the first trial against the pair, handed down last year, ultimately upheld their life sentences, but overturned some convictions, finding that they were not guilty of extermination, nor of murder or political persecution at one crime site, she noted.

In closing, Leang issued a heartfelt thanks to the witnesses and victims who came forward. “Thank you for your courage,” she said.

“You are the real heroes of this case, and your contribution serves the cause of justice for all victims, including the many who cannot testify because they lost their lives during that regime.”

Samphan is today due to make his final statements. A verdict is then expected by mid 2018.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Cambodia purchases 4 million Molnupiravir tablets

    Cambodia has arranged for the purchase of four million US-made Molnupiravir pills – enough to treat 100,000 Covid-19 patients – even though the current rate of daily infections in Cambodia remains low. The medicine will be distributed to state hospitals, pharmacies and private clinics, according to the Samdech

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • No more Africa travel ban but new rules for arrivals

    The Ministry of Health has decided to lift the ban on travellers from or who have travelled through 10 African countries and instead issued a set of standard operating procedures to manage passenger arrivals at Cambodia’s international airports. The 10 African countries are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho,

  • Cambodia planning new border checkpoint at Thma Da

    Cambodia is looking into the possibility of opening a new Thma Da Border Checkpoint with Thailand to boost trade and tourism. The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said on December 4 that Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol led a technical working group