French historian Henri Locard told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday that he questioned the sanity of the regime’s leadership and found it “impossible” that Khieu Samphan had no idea of its policies while he was head of state.
Mr. Locard, 77, who has penned books on the Khmer Rouge, including “Pol Pot’s Little Red Book,” appeared as an expert witness for a second day in Case 002, in which Khieu Samphan and the regime’s second-in-command Nuon Chea are on trial for crimes including genocide.
Under questioning from the prosecution, Mr. Locard said Khieu Samphan’s claim that he was a marginal figure who had little understanding of many of the policies being implemented on his watch was unfathomable.
“If he was only marginal, why didn’t he leave the party in 1979, we can ask. Why did he become the nominal head of the resistance? Why did he only join the current government in 1998 in the company of Nuon Chea, if he was so marginal?” Mr. Locard asked.
“Unless Khieu Samphan was completely blind, unless his ears were plugged and his mouth was shut all the time, it just would have been impossible,” he said.
Asked about the genesis of Nuon Chea’s communist convictions, Mr. Locard said it was a complex question to which he could not give a definitive answer. However, he offered up a theory based on time Nuon Chea spent at pagodas in Thailand in the 1940s, and how he returned to religion in his later years.
He pointed to recent scandals within the monkhood in Thailand and wondered whether Nuon Chea could have witnessed similar behavior 70 years ago that spurred him to pursue a pure, hard-line vision of how society should be ordered.
“If this kind of situation existed then in the 1940s when Nuon Chea was there, he might have said to himself: ‘Buddhist rules, giving up on yourself, giving up on money, giving up on well-being, giving up on the family and all that are not being followed in the pagodas. I’m going to follow them in society,’” he said.
“It’s an idea I have. I’m not sure. It’s just a hypothesis I’m submitting.”
Mr. Locard, who interviewed Khieu Samphan in Pailin in 2003, went on to question the sanity of the regime’s leadership.
“Maybe I can just say what Nuon Chea said…that it’s much better to kill 200 or 300 cadres than the two or three leaders of the country,” Mr. Locard said.
“This very clearly means that human life no longer has any value. Had they become crazy? Had they gone mad?” Mr. Locard asked, noting both refused to be examined by psychiatrists.
“It’s true that they were completely disconnected from reality,” he said. “They were cut in two pieces if you will. They were schizophrenic.”