A civil party to the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s coming trial of senior regime leadership was to attempt today to lodge claims against two revolutionary military commanders, alleging in a separate case that they were responsible for her parents’ executions.
Theary Seng, a human rights activist who has courted public attention for her participation in the Khmer Rouge trials, announced Friday that she intended to seek reparations from Sou Met, commander of the Khmer Rouge air force, and navy commander Meas Muth.
The two have not been charged with any crimes but were named by UN prosecutors in 2009 among a group of five individuals in cases that have been opposed by Cambodian judicial officers and, most prominently, by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Cambodian Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng initially hesitated to participate in the cases at all, and the investigations have apparently seen little activity since they were opened 19 months ago.
A court monitor for the Open Society Justice Initiative wrote last week that “[g]rowing information from inside the court suggests an imminent dropping” of the cases and that government interference meant they might not be properly reviewed.
Ms Seng said yesterday that her announcement was aimed at drawing attention to the investigations in cases 003 and 004, which she said were suffering as a result of political pressure. “This case has been dormant. It should not be dormant,” she said. “To have politics…interfering in the administration of justice is really a slap in the face.”
She accused both men of contributing to execution policies to which her parents had fallen victim.
It was unclear what legal basis may exist for Ms Seng’s application. Tribunal rules say reparations can only be sought once a suspect has been charged with a crime.
Ms Seng said yesterday that she believed domestic law was more favorable and should be applied by the court, but tribunal judges have so far declined to do this.
Lars Olsen, legal communications officer for the tribunal, said yesterday that Ms Seng’s actions were “reckless,” and showed “a complete disregard for judicial due process and principles of law.”
“The court will not be bullied into confirming or denying speculations about a confidential investigation,” he said.
Attempts yesterday to reach out to Sou Met and Meas Muth, who after rallying to the government took up positions in the Cambodian defense establishment, were unsuccessful. Major General Bun Seng, commander of RCAF Region 5, said Sou Met had been transferred to RCAF High Command, which shares a location with the tribunal itself.
A combined prisoner list prepared by prosecutors indicates that at least 299 people under Sou Met’s command were sent to S-21 and killed. Letters on file at the court indicate that Sou Met coordinated the torture and execution of his subordinates.
In a 2008 interview, Meas Muth said he was “in preparation to go to hell,” but both he and Sou Met denied that they bore any responsibility for delivering people into the hands of the S-21 killing operation.
The pair was featured in a 2001 historical study for their alleged roles in selecting subordinates for transfer to S-21.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin and Van Roeun)