Former Khmer Rouge commander Sam Bith will appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Dec 12 to face charges related to a 1994 train ambush in Kampot province that killed 13 Cambodians and led to the abduction and execution of three foreign backpackers, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Sam Bith, 69, the alleged former Khmer Rouge regional commander for Kampot province, has been in prison since May after his surprise arrest in Battambang province, where he had been living quietly despite a long-standing warrant for his arrest.
“The court informed me today that the trial date is on December 12,” said his lawyer, Kar Savuth.
Kar Savuth said the trial was complicated by inaccurate statements made earlier to the court by his client, Sam Bith, in which he had implicated himself in the killings of the three backpackers.
“[Sam Bith] did not remember well about the date and month and what had happened then. He just answered ‘yes, yes’ to the questions and the court investigator wrote it down. That’s why he is allegedly involved,” Kar Savuth said.
More than 10 witnesses will support Sam Bith’s claim of innocence in commanding Khmer Rouge forces when the train was attacked, said Kar Savuth.
Two lower-ranking rebel commanders, Nuon Paet and Chhouk Rin, have been found guilty of kidnapping and killing Australian David Wilson, 29, Briton Mark Slater, 28, and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, and the 13 Cambodians.
The three backpackers were passengers on a train to Kampot town when it was attacked by local Khmer Rouge rebel units.
The hostages were held for two months until negotiations for their release broke down and they were shot dead as government troops stormed the Phnom Voar guerrilla base.
Nuon Paet is serving a life sentence in jail. Chhouk Rin, who currently lives on Phnom Voar, is preparing to fight a recent guilty verdict handed down by the Appeals Court of Phnom Penh.
Puth Theavy, Chhouk Rin’s lawyer, said on Tuesday he will soon lodge a demand for a retrial in the Appeals Court.
“I am going to appeal in another 10 more days for a retrial,” Puth Theavy said.
Sam Bith, Nuon Paet and Chhouk Rin are the only members of the Khmer Rouge rebel movement to be prosecuted in a Cambodian court.