Former KR Commander Defends Chhouk Rin

Former Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Paet has written to the Supreme Court, claiming former rebel commander Chhouk Rin was not involved in the 1994 Kam­pot province train hijacking that led to the deaths of three West­ern backpackers.

Nuon Paet, who is imprisoned at Prey Sar prison for his involvement in the killings, wrote the letter ahead of Chhouk Rin’s final Su­preme Court appeal against his con­viction for the killings, scheduled for Wednesday, according to a copy of the statement obtained Mon­day.

“[Chhouk Rin] was not involved in this story, so please Supreme Court Director, help find justice for Chhouk Rin,” Nuon Paet wrote in the letter dated Jan 28.

The statement was witnessed and signed by Prey Sar prison Dir­ector Kim Sarin. Attempts to contact Kim Sarin by telephone were un­­successful Monday.

The order to attack the train was given by Pol Pot and Sam Bith, former Khmer Rouge regional commander for Kampot province, Nuon Paet wrote, adding “I saw the order.”

Yong Vorn, a district commander in Phnom Voar—not Chhouk Rin—led the attack, he wrote. “There was an order from Sam Bith to…Yong Vorn to de­stroy the three at the Knach Prei base.”

Sam Bith, who has been convicted for his role in the Western­ers’ deaths, is unable to speak following a stroke, his wife said last week. Sam Bith also gave the or­der for the Cambodians who survived the hijacking to be re­leased, and for the backpackers to be kept as a bargaining tool to be used with the government, Nuon Paet wrote.

Although Chhouk Rin was disabled and did not take part in the train ambush, he was found guilty be­­­­cause soldiers under his command took part, Presiding Judge Sam­rith Sophal told the Appeals Court when Chhouk Rin was sentenced to life in prison on Sept 6, 2002.

Youk Chhang, director of the Doc­u­ment­a­tion Center of Cambo­dia, warned against jumping to con­clusions about the upcoming court decision. “The pub­lic should watch carefully and closely monitor the case,” he said. “It will be difficult to en­sure the fairness of the trial” without public scrutiny.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Pin Siso­vann and William Shaw)

 

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