Khieu Samphan, former head of state for Democratic Kampuchea, issued an open letter on Tuesday, addressing the public’s opinion of himself and claiming that he has risen in the estimation of many Cambodians.
“More of our compatriots than before, including the monks, have expressed their sympathies to me, and I do not need to say everything that other people have told me everyday along the road, smiling at me and telling me they have read my book,” the letter said.
“This book does not only attract sympathies but also inspires discussions,” Khieu Samphan wrote, before listing the walks of life his publishing debut, “The Recent History of Cambodia and My Successive Positions,” has inspired.
But, as a suspect of genocide and crimes against humanity might anticipate, there have been detractors.
“Some of our compatriots insist on making accusations against me and having me arrested or at least detained in one place. It is laughable, and this reaction came from the person who incessantly advises other people about democracy and law.”
Earlier this month, 15 of the country’s most prominent human rights workers put their name to a letter authored by Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay and scholar Lao Mong Hay.
The letter appealed to the general prosecutor of the Appeals Court to issue arrest warrants for surviving Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan to ensure their presence at a long-anticipated, UN-backed tribunal.
General Prosecutor Hanrot Raken issued a statement Tuesday saying that those warrants would not be issued.
Khieu Samphan asked that those detractors not suppress discussion of the nation’s history with unfounded accusations of bloodletting.
“Those people can respond to me by saying that the Khmer Rouge did not provide human rights and legal defense to the victims of its regime, so the Khmer Rouge must not receive legal defense themselves. I would ask in return, can they fix injustice by continuing injustice?” he wrote.
Then Khieu Samphan echoed a passage of his book.
“In this painful event, to what degree should I be responsible? What have I done to survive while all other people died? I do not know if what I have said on the page above is a sufficient answer to all these questions. So therefore I would like to ask the compatriots to judge me,” the letter read.
He went on to write that he had no intention of avoiding responsibilities but that he simply asked for a fair trial that examined all the circumstances of the years in question, 1975 to 1979.
He also asked Cambodians to recognize that he was the head of state of Democratic Kampuchea in title only. He acknowledged skepticism might be expected, as that position does carry power in most of the world’s countries.
Khieu Samphan concluded his letter by saying that he has already explained his acceptance of the role without repeating the reason.
He wrote in his book that he did so believing he was “not a representative of the Khmer Rouge, but a representative of the whole Khmer nation.”