Duch Questions Khieu Samphan’s Courage, Veracity at Tribunal

After days of testimony accusing Nuon Chea of being culpable for atrocities committed at the S-21 security center, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav on Tuesday took aim at Khieu Samphan for claiming he had no knowledge of internal purges within the Khmer Rouge regime until after 1979.

Under questioning from assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, the former prison chief, better known by his revolutionary alias Duch, scoffed at claims Khieu Samphan had made to investigating judges that he had no inkling of the mass arrests taking place inside the country while he was head of state.

Duch testifies for a fifth day at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (ECCC)
Duch testifies for a fifth day at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (ECCC)

Khieu Samphan “has denied having knowledge of any arrests during the [Democratic Kampuchea] regime. He claims he only learned after 1979 that people had been arrested,” Mr. Lysak said.

“Was it very well-known during the Democratic Kampuchea regime that prominent leaders…had been purged?” Mr. Lysak asked.

Embarking on a typically elongated response, Duch described how information was disseminated within the party ranks, including confessions of high-profile cadre, and dismissed Khieu Samphan’s claim.

“If he said that he learned of that information after 1979, I believe he is not courageous. He is not brave enough as a revolutionary,” Duch said.

“He should serve the people, and if he made a mistake, he should express his remorse or regret to the people,” he added.

Duch, who has been serving a life sentence at the Kandal Provincial Prison since becoming the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty by the tribunal of crimes against humanity in 2010, then continued his barrage of allegations against Nuon Chea, second-in-command of the Khmer Rouge. The former prison chief accused him of ordering the executions of Eastern Zone cadre and holding absolute authority over S-21, the Khmer Rouge detention center where more than 15,000 people were sent to their deaths.

“At S-21, I never made the decision to make an arbitrary arrest without the authorization from Brother Nuon,” he said.

Concluding a fifth day of questioning, Mr. Lysak named a long list of purged leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Vorn Vet and Northern Zone commander Koy Thoun, and asked Duch whether Nuon Chea had ever discussed how it was possible for the Khmer Rouge to have won power with so many ‘traitors” embedded in the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).

“All these people are brought to S-21 accused of being traitors and killed. In any of the times that you had discussions with [Defense Minister] Son Sen and Nuon Chea, did anyone ever ask how it was possible for the CPK to have waged a successful revolution and defeated the Lon Nol government if all along half the central committee, half of the leaders of the party and the military were traitors?” Mr. Lysak asked.

“No, there was none,” Duch replied. “No one raised the matter with me.”

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