Former Khmer Rouge navy commander Meas Muth appeared in front of a judge in Battambang City on Monday to face charges including genocide, more than nine months after he was charged in absentia for crimes against humanity and war crimes, the Khmer Rouge tribunal announced.
The former navy chief was charged by International Co-Investigating Judge Michael Bohlander, who took over from Judge Mark Harmon in August, with a slew of crimes including genocide and a wide range of crimes against humanity, including murder, extermination and enslavement, in Case 003 at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC).
Some charges, including genocide, have been added since the March 3 decision, while some have been rescinded along with an arrest warrant, which was issued in December last year and was ignored by judicial police.
Contacted via email on Monday, Michael Karnavas, a defense lawyer for Meas Muth, said his client was charged in Battambang due to his ailing health.
“The charging took place in Battambang due to Mr. Meas Muth’s health. Nothing unusual about that,” Mr. Karnavas said.
Asked whether he still perceived the charges as “invalid” due to only one investigating judge signing off on it, as he argued in a June statement, Mr. Karnavas said he understood that National Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng had “no objections” to Meas Muth being summoned and charged by Judge Bohlander.
Lars Olsen, a spokesman for the court, said he could not divulge details on why some charges had been dropped from the March order due to the confidentiality of the investigation. He declined to say which ethnic, racial or religious group Meas Muth stands accused of committing genocide against, also citing confidentiality.
The charges are the latest to be handed down in the government-opposed cases 003 and 004, with Yim Tith, alias Ta Tith, being charged on Wednesday with crimes including genocide of the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority from Southern Vietnam. Ao An, alias Ta An, faced charges in March, while Im Chaem was charged in absentia in the same month but has refused to face judges. Police have also refused to heed a warrant for her arrest.
After being charged in March, Meas Muth said he was more “concerned with planting my corn and cassava” than with the actions of the tribunal. The Interior Ministry said that before arresting Meas Muth, it needed to gauge the opinion of his neighbors in Samlot district, one of the final Khmer Rouge strongholds.
Hem Sarom, police chief in Meas Muth’s home commune of Ta Sanh, said on Monday that court officials had recently paid two visits to the ailing former navy commander, who recently returned from receiving medical treatment in Thailand.
“The second time ECCC officials went to visit him again, this coincided with four or five monks who were praying to the elder man Meas Muth, because he was sent to a Thai hospital in recent months for medical treatment, but he was not better and Thai doctors allowed him to return home,” Mr. Sarom said. “He is seriously sick.”
Despite being unaware of events at the tribunal, Mr. Sarom said he believed the court should stop its proceedings against Meas Muth.
“We did not hear whether the arrest warrant has been canceled…but if the arrest warrant is canceled, this is good,” he said.
“The U.N. should not bother with this case, because he cannot eat but can only drink water and sleep on his mat.”