Friend Portrays Khieu Samphan as Tragic Hero

During his testimony for the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal on Tuesday, Philippe Jullian-Gaufres, 83, a French businessman and friend of Khieu Samphan, described the regime’s former head of state as a beloved politician who, from his days as a student in Paris, was utterly devoted to improving the lives of his people.

Having first met Khieu Samphan when they were both studying in France in the late 1950s, they kept in touch after Mr. Jullian-Gaufres moved to Cambodia in 1961 as the managing director of French multinational Air Liquide, which was setting up an in­dustrial gas factory in the country.

“I met Khieu Samphan several times…and when I met him I grew to appreciate him very much and my appreciation grew when I was in Cambodia and saw the way that he conducted his political activities,” he said, speaking from France via video link, adding that even as commerce minister in the 1960s, Khieu Sam­phan continued to live a humble life.

Khieu Samphan, along with Khmer Rouge Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, is on trial for crimes against humanity.

Mr. Jullian-Gaufres said that from academic presentations and conversations during his time in Paris, Khieu Samphan came across as a pragmatic socialist who wanted to transform Cambo­dia into a more equal and less dependent state.

“I believe that he wished that this change would happen gradually and not in a brutal way. He wanted to avoid revolution, he just wanted evolution,” he said.

Taking over the questioning of Mr. Jullian-Gaufres, Senior Assistant International Prosecutor Vin­cent de Wilde read from a number of speeches given by Khieu Samphan during his time as president of Democratic Kampuchea’s State Presidium that expressed a much more radical ideology, including the forbidding of religion and eradicating the influence of “enemies from abroad.”

“Yes, it was a cultural revolution,” Mr. Jullian-Gaufres said. “However, I continue believing that Khieu Samphan never believed in a Chi­nese-style great leap forward or Chinese-style cultural revolution.”

Mr. de Wilde also called attention to the fact that Mr. Jullian-Gaufres was not in contact with Khieu Samphan between 1966 and 1990, when the two met again in Paris.

Mr. Jullian-Gaufres also said he was not aware that Khieu Sam­phan had been part of communist groups while studying in Paris and had never spoken with him about what occurred between April 1975 and December 1978, when the Khmer Rouge was in power.

“We never broached the topic, we never talked about it. But if he accepted these functions it was because he truly believed it would be of use to his country and his people,” he said.

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