The Post attempted to interview six of the seven individuals - excluding imprisoned
Ta Mok -who were subjects of the report "Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability
for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge". Ieng Sary refused an interview, Khieu Samphan
declined to speak on the record and Sou Met was unavailable. Interviews with Nuon
Chea, Ke Pauk and Meas Muth were conducted in Khmer by Vong Sokheng, Bou Saroeun
and Christine Chaumeau.
Nuon Chea speaks: "Do I look like a killer?"
Interview with Nuon Chea, former Deputy Secretary of the CPK Central Committee.
By Christine Chaumeau and Vong Sokheng
Post: According to [former S-21 chief] Duch, during a meeting you ordered him
to kill 300 soldiers.
Nuon Chea: I do not know [about that] because I was not in charge of the military.
I was in charge of the National Assembly, so I had no duty or role in the military
and internal security matters of the country. In the organization, there was a military
committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, with Pol Pot and Son Sen and many
other people who were responsible. Pol Pot was chairman on the committee. I was in
charge of the education and the National Assembly, from the beginning.
Post: According to Duch and to telegrams you received as a member of the Standing
Committee of the CPK, you were sent the confessions of [S-21] prisoners to review
Chea: I don't know what you are talking about. I was not responsible for that.
[...] I was responsible for education. I did not have the right to give orders, to
make any decision. I could not decide about arrest and torture. My duty was to educate,
to build human resources, to promote the comrades of the Party. But it is normal
that the person who educates is hated and loved at the same time. I educated people
not to commit crimes, not to steal property. I never gave orders to my comrades to
torture or to commit crimes because it contradicts my ideals for the party.
Post: You received the confession of Nheum Sim made in October 1977.
Chea: Nheum Sim? I do not know?
Post: Alias Saut?
A : Saut, yes.
Post: The interrogator said that he [Nheum Sim] confessed after he tortured
Chea: I do not remember. I was not sent confessions. What is Tuol Sleng anyway?
I do not know. At that time, I never went there. I still do not know where is Tuol
Post: According to the documents in the report, that are held by the Documentation
Center, the telegrams sent to you from the lower ranks contained many references
to 'smashing' and 'sweeping away the enemy'?
Chea: Do you believe the Documentation Center? Do you believe what is written
by [Documentation Center of Cambodia director] Youk Chhang? Do you believe they are
searching for truth? I would like to show you one document made by Youk Chhang. [Nuon
Chea gets up and goes to his room. He comes back with Issue 18 of Searching For The
Truth, published by the Documentation Center in June 2001.] Look here, they published
a statement [they said] I made in front of the Farmers Party of Denmark. Look in
this paragraph, they say 'Sir'. In the [CPK] party, we never used the word 'Sir'
- we used comrade. I never gave this statement. [Nuon Chea points at a photograph
in the magazine.] Where did they get my picture from? I have never allowed anyone
to take my picture. I do not know where they picked up this picture. At that time,
I never gave public statements. What is the truth? Where did they find it?
Post: [According to the report, there were] telegrams from committees addressed
to Brother Nuon requesting authorization to conduct executions.
Chea: I never received or read such telegrams. Some people were responsible. You
have to understand the principle of the organization of the Party. I did not know
[about this], because I was responsible for education and we never produced a law
to kill the people. I was thinking about how to solve the problem, to help the people
in order to give them better living conditions.
Post: The report says that you took part in designing the policies against
the three "enemies" of the regime: ex-soldiers of the Khmer Republic, the
non-communist population, and the anti-CPK cadre.
Chea: No. During that time the most important duty was to fight, to struggle to
save the nation in order to reach unity, independence and territorial integrity.
Some people died because of illness and starvation but it never went up to millions
of people. After five years in war, the US bombings with the B-52s, there were many
killed. I do not want to dig up the issue, to talk again, because there is [reconciliation]
now. If I talk about it again, it is useless. If we talk about this time, we have
to remember that to any act there is a consequence. If I talk about it, it will never
end. Now, the nation needs to be united and integrated into the world. The US, Britain
and many others countries now help Cambodia, even Vietnam that used to have problems
with Cambodia [is helping us]. Khmer and Khmer are back together. If we dig it up
again, we will have new problems. Now we need to think long-term, to look at the
future. We have to think about the interest of the nation. Now, Khmer should not
look back at the history with Vietnam because for two hundred years Vietnam and Cambodia
have had problems.
Post: The trial will look at these issues of the past and your responsibility
for what happened?
Chea: I do not know why you ask such a question, I would like to talk about unity
and you ask about the trial. If you talk about it, we also have to talk about the
quality of the tribunal.
Post: For you, what is a good trial, of what standard?
Chea: In the world there is no justice. Look at the La Fontaine Fable of the Wolf
and the Sheep [a French fable with the moral that whoever has the greatest power
shall be the victor]. The truth exists and nobody can suppress the truth. For each
action, one has to look for the reason behind it. The truth is that the US allowed
Lon Nol to have a coup d'etat to topple Sihanouk in 1970, then the problems started.
This is the truth. There is a reason and there is a result. And if you would like
to make a problem with the Khmer Rouge, you have to ask questions to the United Nations
who recognized the Khmer Rouge.
Post: What about your life? Do you have any regrets?
Chea: No I have no regrets I have fulfilled my duty for the nation.
Post: Are you worried about your karma?
Chea: Yes, I believe [in karma.] I have never commited a bad thing. I always did
good things. I thought about the living conditions of the people and how to solve
their problems. If I were bad, I would not be here in this difficult situation now.
I am honest with my people and my nation.
Post: Some Cambodians really want to hear an explanation from you about what
Chea: There was a destroying group. The Party wanted to give rice three times
a day for the people and dessert one time a week. But one group destroyed all our
plans. They were the enemy. They were doing everything as they wanted.
Post: Why did Khmer kill Khmer?
Chea: Khmer? We have to make sure who is Khmer. [Those who committed killings]
were not the Khmer who worked for the Party but the Khmer who worked for the foreigners.
Post: You said there was a destroying group. Who was the enemy? How many enemies
were within this group?
Chea: I cannot estimate. I do not know. I do not want to say what I do not know.
Now, I am weak because I am 76 years old. It is not as before. I do not want to write
my autobiography. If you want to know if I am bad or wrong you should ask the people
rather than ask me. I have two ways, The first is to become a monk forever and the
other way is to join the revolution. I actually think the two ways are similar. Both
Post: Do you regret not to have joined the monkhood?
Chea: I do not regret that because even if I do not join the monkhood, I still
respect the five principles of the Buddha: do not kill; do not cheat; do not steal;
do not steal the woman of the other people; be honest, do not lie; do not drink alcohol
or use drug such as yabaa[amphetamines].
Post: You talk about the rule of not killing, but you were a member of a group
that is responsible for the death of two million Cambodians?
Chea: It is not my group. It is not the Democratic Kampuchea who killed the people.
After the war, the country was poor. I tried to solve the problems for people to
have food, clothes, good health but we could not do as we wanted because, as I said
before, a group destroyed our intention. The party was not one piece of iron, united.
Post: Those documents prove that you knew about the killings and the torture
that were going on at the time?
Chea: I did not know about the torture and the killings. Any people can produce
such documents afterwards.
Post: Duch said that you attended a meeting in the first half of 1978 when
the decision to purge the Eastern zone was made.
Chea: If there was a meeting, it was not public, it was secret. Duch just said
Post: According to you, how many people were killed [during the Khmer Rouge
Chea: Many people were killed during the war, the 300 days and nights of theB-52
bombings, then during the Vietnamese occupation and the K5 plan [State of Cambodia
plan to mobilize civilians in forced defence labor]. Why do we only talk about Tuol
Sleng? Who organized Tuol Sleng? Anyone can organize Tuol Sleng. May be there was
some killing but never as many as two million. Who can kill that many people? I dared
to give up my whole life for the revolution, but not to kill people. Why should I
kill my people?
Post: Because the revolution failed?
Chea: No. This was not the policy of the CPK.
Post: But this was the result.
Chea: How do you know? Anyone can write documents afterwards to defame. I admit
some people were killed but not millions. They died from diseases, illness, and starvation.
Many documents were fake and this is why I say there is no justice in this world.
Post: The tribunal will ask what is your responsibility?
Chea: Yes, I am preparing myself for this eventuality.
Post: The tribunal will ask only one question: what is your responsibility.
Chea: Who saw me kill people? It might be difficult to prove. I was in the movement
but I was not responsible. Pol Pot and Son Sen were the ones who decided. I had no
role in security. It is not the patriots who killed the people but those who betrayed
the nation. I do not know who was behind it. If I say, there will be a problem with
Post: Are you ready to go to trial?
Chea: I am afraid my health will be a big problem. I feel weak. [But] I think
there will not be war if there is a trial. The people of Cambodia like peace, independence.
They never started a war. They never invaded other countries but other countries
Post: But how can you say that you did not know about the killings, when you
were one of the top leaders?
Chea: Do I look like a killer? [laughs, saying the words 'a killer' in English]
Post: Yes. If we look at the documents and listen to the testimonies of many
Cambodians, you were part of the decision-making process that killed many people.
Chea: The decisions were taken by security and military officials. I was in charge
of education. I gave advice to the leaders who were not good. The people in charge
of education did not have the power to kill people. I could not give orders to Duch.
I never met Duch. I do not know who was in charge of Tuol Sleng. I discovered Tuol
Sleng afterwards and I do not know S-21. Son Sen was in charge of the security, not
Post: Cambodians need an explanation for what happened during the KR.
Chea: I regret that I could not fulfill my promise to the people about providing
food and clothes. Many people are still in a difficult situation and Hun Sen makes
effort to develop the country for the good of the people. The country is developing
step by step. The people in power always want to develop the nation but they cannot
do. I am old now and I take care of myself as a normal citizen. I just want to see
my children having enough. I just want to say that I feel pain about the group of
people who killed my people.