Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prosecutor slams Samphan alibis



Prosecutor slams Samphan alibis

International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian (left) at the Case 002/01 appeal judgment late last year. ECCC
International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian (left) at the Case 002/01 appeal judgment late last year. ECCC

Prosecutor slams Samphan alibis

International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian went on the offensive at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, blasting former regime leader Khieu Samphan for treating his citizens like “farm animals” and personally accusing him of being an active participant in the “killing campaign”.

On Wendesday, Samphan’s defence lawyer Anta Guisse presented key documents she hoped would show her defendant had limited personal responsibility for the crimes committed under his regime. Guisse argued regional leaders acted autonomously, often disobeying central policy, and that central command was unaware of the extent of the atrocities committed.

Koumjian, however, began by referencing historian Ben Kiernan in an effort to show that certain crimes against humanity were central policy and widespread across different regions.

Kiernan wrote that the central leadership issued commands to evacuate people from the cities, abolish currency and religion, execute leaders of the previous regime and expel ethnic Vietnamese from the country, among other crimes. “The same policies were carried out across Cambodia . . . in areas widely separated around the country,” Koumjian added.

Koumjian also tackled Guisse’s claim that the central leadership was simply unaware of the situation on the ground, referencing an interview with late King Father Norodom Sihanouk in which he recalls travelling the countryside with Khieu Samphan.

“I saw that the communes were concentration camps. I saw how the work went on day and night . . . sleep was not allowed,” Sihanouk said.

Koumjian also slammed the defence’s assertion on Wednesday that the massacres of urbanites or “new people” after their expulsion to the countryside were a result of pre-existing class tension. “They didn’t go there of their own choice,” Koumjian said, before pointing to a 1982 New York Times interview in which Samphan admitted to supporting the policy of forced relocation.

An edition of the central government’s propaganda magazine Revolutionary Flag, which was also referenced by Guisse on Wednesday, explicitly endorsed creating a hierarchy within cooperatives, ranking people as “full rights members, candidate members and depositees”, a reference to the displaced city dwellers.

Another recent point of contention has been the accusation that central party leadership exported rice to other countries while Cambodians starved to death in droves. On Wednesday, Guisse suggested it was possible zone leaders exported this rice without the knowledge of the two defendants.

But Koumjian yesterday read excerpts from speeches by both Samphan and his co-defendant Nuon Chea where they “bragged” about exporting rice. He then followed these speeches with telegrams from zone leader Ruos Nhim informing central leadership of widespread food shortages.

Stephen Heder, also quoted on Wednesday, claimed Khieu Samphan was responsible for the destruction of the National United Front of Cambodia (FUNC) and the Royal Government of the National Union of Kampuchea (GRUNK) and the deaths of some members. “Nine of the 16 people that Khieu Samphan had responsibility for in the FUNC and GRUNK governments were executed,” Koumjian said.

“These documents show not only Khieu Samphan’s knowledge of the killing campaign, but his active participation, facilitation and instigation of that campaign,” Koumjian concluded.

Guisse said that the defence was “not able to respond to the rebuttals of the co-prosecution today”, prompting judges to end the session early.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and