Khmer Rouge Tribunal Hears Arguments Against Genocide

A defense lawyer for Khieu Sam­phan on Wednesday presented doc­uments at the Khmer Rouge tri­bunal in support of the argument that the regime did not commit genocide against Cham Mus­lims and ethnic Vietnamese.

Anta Guisse, international counsel for the Khmer Rouge head of state, used the documentary hearing—which allows parties to handpick items from the case file in support of their arguments—to highlight the theories of prominent Khmer Rouge academics rejecting claims that the regime targeted the two groups along ethnic lines.

The French lawyer first read out an excerpt from scholar Philip Short’s testimony at the tribunal in May 2013, when he appeared as an expert witness. Under questioning, Mr. Short, who penned “Pol Pot: The History of a Night­mare,” had told the court that he did not believe the treatment of the Cham and Vietnamese could be equated with other genocides.

“I’m absolutely convinced there was no attempt to exterminate any par­ticular ethnic group,” Mr. Short said at the time.

“We are in a totally different situation in Cambodia to that in Rwanda, to that in Nazi Germany, where there was an attempt to exterminate Jews for what they were; they were Jews, therefore, should be exterminated. Tutsis should be exterminated because they’re Tutsis. That simply did not apply in Democratic Kampuchea,” he said.

Mr. Short argued that the persecution of the Cham was based on po­liticalrather than racial grounds.

“Those who stood out were un­der greater pressure to be made equal, and in the case of the Chams, it happened by dispensing them through the country by the very savage repression of their re­bellions, but that is not the same as a conscious attempt to exterminate a racial group,” he said.

Ms. Guisse also read an excerpt from a 2014 opinion piece by French historian Henri Locard pub­lished in The Cambodia Daily, in which he argued that the Viet­namese were in fact “the least un­fortunate of all Cambodian residents” because the Khmer Rouge al­lowed about 300,000 of them to re­turn to Vietnam early in the Dem­ocratic Kampuchea period.

Mr. Locard also wrote that the Cham were not targeted due to their ethnicity, but as a result of the re­bellions staged in Kompong Cham province.

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