Civil Party Grilled Over Death of Infant Daughter

A civil party at the Khmer Rouge tribunal was questioned Tuesday over her infant daughter’s death during the Pol Pot regime before delivering an impassioned speech condemning the defendants’ refusal to admit they knew about the mass killings that took place under their watch.

Chou Koemlan—who on Monday described how her daughter died from malnourishment and how her nephew was disemboweled by his wife—answered questions from Victor Koppe, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, who suggested that her child did not fall victim to starvation.

“In 1976, we could not go to search for any food to eat. First, she got measles and after that, she lost her hair and was admitted into hospital where there was no medicine. That is why she passed away,” Ms. Koemlan said, briefly breaking down in tears when asked why she did not ask for food from locals.

“The original cause of death was the result of having no food to eat; she scavenged for food…and it was very dirty,” she added.

Ms. Koemlan also reiterated that in early 1977, she witnessed Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan arrive with Pol Pot at the Tram Kak cooperative, where she could overhear them, along with Southwest Zone chief Ta Mok, saying that workers should dig a canal deeper.

Mr. Koppe suggested that it was unlikely Ms. Koemlan could have known who Nuon Chea was, as the identity of Pol Pot’s former lieutenant was not revealed publicly until later that year.

Before Ms. Koemlan could respond, Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn told her that she was not required to give an answer.

Ms. Koemlan used her final statement to pour scorn on the so-called “liberation” of Cambodia from “imperialists” carried out by Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and other high-ranking Khmer Rouge officials.

“They liberated the country, they wanted people to have equal rights and they wanted to liberate the country from the U.S. imperialists. Why did they commit killings?” Ms. Koemlan asked rhetorically, recounting an instance in which she stumbled upon piles of decomposing bodies near a forest.

“They say they did not commit the killings, how can they dare say they did not know about the killings? Killing people did not happen in a short amount of time; people were killed over three years, eight months and 20 days,” she said.

Proceedings at the tribunal continue on Thursday.

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