Civil Party Blames King Sihanouk for Khmer Rouge Suffering

A survivor of the Pol Pot regime told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday that he holds the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk responsible for the trauma he endured under the ultra-Marxists.

Testifying for the second day, civil party Sen Sophon told Victor Koppe, defense counsel for defendant Nuon Chea—on trial for crimes including genocide alongside Khieu Samphan—that he blamed the former king for the rise of the communists.

Sen Sophon (ECCC)
Sen Sophon (ECCC)

Mr. Sophon, whose father was a soldier under the Lon Nol regime that preceded Pol Pot and was killed by the Khmer Rouge, confirmed that he entered Norodom Sihanouk’s name under the “alleged responsibility” section in his civil party application.

“In fact it is him who actually introduced the Communist Party of Kampuchea into Cambodia,” Mr. Sophon said. “I don’t know the details. However, my father told me that it was the king who introduced communism into Cambodia in order to overthrow the Lon Nol regime.”

Referring back to the civil party application, Mr. Koppe highlighted a request for $1,000 in reparations for his suffering under the Khmer Rouge, and asked whether he expected the current royal family to foot the bill.

“As we all know, King Norodom Sihanouk doesn’t live anymore. Do you want $1,000 from his heirs?” he asked.

Mr. Koppe’s question immediately prompted an objection from prosecutors and civil party lawyers who said it strayed beyond the scope of the trial. Civil party lawyer Marie Guiraud also refuted Mr. Koppe’s suggestion that the question was relevant due to the possibility of Nuon Chea being asked to pay reparations.

“Let’s perhaps be a little more serious. It is very clear that civil party cannot ask for financial reparations before the Chamber and also the client of Mr. Koppe has been declared indigent, therefore this is pure fantasy,” Ms. Guiraud said.

“I would ask [the Trial Chamber] not to allow this question, the only purpose of which is to put on a show. This is what our colleague is trying to do this morning,” she said.

The Trial Chamber upheld the objection.

Breaking down in tears twice during his “statement of impact,” Mr. Sophon spoke of the losses he endured under Democratic Kampuchea.

“I became so desperate. I didn’t have any more hope in my life as I lost all my family members including my parents and younger siblings. I lost my property. I lost my home,” he said. “I had nobody to hold on to and I’m still in the same condition in the present day.”

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