The defence for Nuon Chea at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday drew a link between the rhetoric used in the wake of the recent coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that of Democratic Kampuchea.
Charges pertaining to internal purges form part of the current Case 002/02 against Chea and his co-defendant Khieu Samphan, though the Chea defence has argued the Khmer Rouge faced legitimate threats of a coup d’état from within its own ranks in the late 1970s.
During his cross-examination of expert witness Henri Locard, Chea’s lawyer, Victor Koppe, asked the historian if terms like “microbes”, “cancer” and “parasite” formed part of “slogans that strikingly expressed Democratic Kampuchea policies”.
Locard, who compiled Khmer Rouge sayings in Pol Pot’s Little Red Book, agreed those terms were used to dehumanise their internal enemies and “sweep them clean”. “Before eliminating the people, they had to be excluded from mankind,” Locard said.
“Basically, they were monsters, they were insects, they were . . . bloodsuckers, and so on.”
Koppe then asked Locard if he recognised the quotation: “We will continue to cleanse the virus from all state institutions, because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state.”
Locard said while it was not a Democratic Kampuchea slogan published in his book, it was likely part of a speech by someone in a position of power. The comment, Koppe confirmed, came from Turkey’s Erdogan, who in the last two weeks has arrested thousands and vowed to purge state bodies following an attempted coup.
Koppe went on to question Locard’s previous use of psychiatric terms to describe his client. “When you’re saying that Nuon Chea is either schizophrenic, power-hungry or paranoid, that is just your personal opinion, correct?”
Locard said the diagnosis came from other academics, maintaining that he had never fallen prey to “confirmation bias” in his research nor sought to unfairly attribute extraneous crimes to the Khmer Rouge.
“I think the Khmer Rouge have committed enough crimes . . . I am always very angry when I hear they committed crimes they did not commit.”