Battambang Court To Question Nuon Chea

Battambang Provincial Court will question former Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea regarding guerrilla commander Sam Bith’s role in the 1994 slaying of three Western tourists, officials said Thursday.

Sam Bith, 69, was captured in May and charged with ambushing a train in Kampot province in 1994 during which 13 Cambo­dians were also killed.

Some 100 former rebels and Nuon Chea, one-time ideological guru of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s confidante, said in a statement in June that Sam Bith was not involved in the killings.

Bat­tam­bang Court director Nil Non said he would send a judge to meet with Nuon Chea next week. “We will go to confirm whether it is true or not, that he wrote this letter about [Sam Bith],” Nil Non said.

Nuon Chea and other former rebel chiefs in the northwest claim that Sam Bith was dismissed from his post as Khmer Rouge regional commander for Kampot province weeks before the train ambush.

On July 14, 1994—ten days before the attack—Sam Bith was receiving treatment at a Khmer Rouge hospital in Samlot, the former rebels claim.

Nil Non said the statement and signature thumbprints did not amount to much evidence of Sam Bith’s innocence, but the court was obliged to investigate.

Sam Bith’s lawyer said on Thursday there was no date yet scheduled for his client’s trial.

Last week the Appeals Court of Phnom Penh and the Supreme Court found two lower ranking members of the Khmer Rouge guilty of kidnapping and executing Australian David Wilson, 29, Briton Mark Slater, 28, and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27.

Nuon Paet and Chhouk Rin were sentenced to life in prison. Chhouk Rin has vowed to appeal his conviction.

The French Minister of For­eign Affairs issued a statement on Thursday welcoming last week’s convictions and calling for the trial of the third person responsible: Sam Bith.

Prosecution of the former Khmer Rouge chiefs was an encouraging sign that the rule of law had made progress in Cambodia and allowed “hope that justice will finally be done in this sad affair,” the foreign minister said.

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