Appeals Court Hearing Set for Chhouk Rin

The Appeals Court on Tuesday sum­moned former Khmer Rouge chief Chhouk Rin to a re-trial for his role in a 1994 train attack in Kampot province that left 13 Cambodians dead and led to the kidnapping and murder of three Western backpackers, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Chhouk Rin was acquitted of all crimes linked to the train attack by the Phnom Penh Mu­nicipal Court in 2000.

Court officials ruled that the former guerrilla commander was exempt from prosecution under a 1994 amnesty law for Khmer Rouge fighters who laid down their weapons and made peace with the government.

Relatives of the slain backpackers—Australian David Wilson, 29, Briton Mark Slater, 28, and French citizen Jean-Michel Braquet, 27—blasted the acquittal in 2000. They lodged appeals in the weeks after the 2000 ruling.

“I have received the summons from the Appeals Court, but I have not yet notified my client,” said Puth Theavy, lawyer for Chhouk Rin.

“My client is worried about the case,” he said.

Puth Theavy said he was also worried about foreign political in­terference in the Appeals Court hearing scheduled for Aug 28 in Phnom Penh.

“I think Chhouk Rin will have trouble with this case due to political pressure on the Cambodian government by donor countries,” Puth Theavy said.

“According to state law, Chhouk Rin is not guilty,” he said.

Chhouk Rin is accused of or­dering fighters from the Khmer Rouge base in Phnom Voar to attack the train as it traveled to Kampot town in July 1994.

At least 13 Cambodian were killed. David Wilson, Mark Slater and Jean-Michel Braquet were taken hostage and held for several weeks until ransom negotiations broke down and they were executed.

Chhouk Rin was one of three Khmer Rouge commanders charged in connection with the train attack and executions.

His former Khmer Rouge superior, Nuon Paet, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 for his part in the ambush and killings.

Sam Bith, regional Khmer Rouge commander for Kampot during the 1994 train ambush, was summoned to appear in court in 2000. But, fearing conviction, he went into hiding.

He was apprehended by police in May in Battambang province and transferred to Phnom Penh, where he is now imprisoned and awaiting trial.

British Ambassador Stephen Bridges said on Tuesday he welcomed the scheduling of the Appeals Court hearing.

“I am glad the process is proceeding,” Bridges said.

The British Embassy is committed to finding justice for all British nationals killed by the Khmer Rouge between 1994 and 1996, he added.

But prosecuting former Khmer Rouge fighters is not popular among all Cambodians.

Chhouk Rin has a strong following of former Khmer Rouge fighters and villagers in the Phnom Voar area, and many protested his original arrest in 2000. His acquittal was followed by raucous celebrations.

Khmer Rouge sources in Kampot were also angered by the arrest of Sam Bith, their former commander, for the killing of the backpackers.

The arrest of Sam Bith has worried some lower-ranking former Khmer Rouge fighters who fear being prosecuted if a long-awaited genocide tribunal is established.

“I will go to the forest. I won’t wait,” one former Khmer Rouge fighter in Kampot’s Koh Slah commune said.

 

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