The Khmer Rouge tribunal’s investigation into the regime’s navy commander, Meas Muth, has concluded after almost eight years, although the aging former cadre said on Tuesday that he was unfazed about the possibility of ending up in the dock.
The announcement means the government-opposed Case 003 moves one step closer to going to trial, or being thrown out by investigating judges. Prime Minister Hun Sen has said cases beyond the ongoing Case 002 will not proceed.
Meas Muth, 78, was charged with crimes including genocide and war crimes in 2015, in a case that was opened in 2009. He is accused of committing a slew of atrocities including extermination and enslavement at sites across the country during his tenure as navy chief based in what is now Preah Sihanouk province.
Involved parties now have 30 days to request further investigation before the case is sent to prosecutors to make a final submission, followed by the judges’ decision on whether to send the case to trial.
Contacted by telephone at his home in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Samlot district in Battambang province, Meas Muth claimed he “didn’t know” about the latest update.
“I am not worried at all. It’s up to them,” the former commander said.
Asked about his current state, Meas Muth said he was “sometimes sick,” but generally in good health. On the possibility of ending up in court, he was cryptic in his response, saying only: “I have a house to stay in.”
Michael Karnavas, a lawyer for Meas Muth, was similarly terse.
“No surprise of the decision or the timing of it. We have a way to go, and considering what lies ahead, it never pays to indulge in anticipatory anxiety,” Mr. Karnavas said in an email.
The conclusion of the investigation is the latest activity in cases 003 and 004, which involve charges against four suspects, mostly mid-ranking officials in the Khmer Rouge.
Last month, the investigation into Ao An, alias Ta An—who stands accused of running a network of security centers responsible for the deaths of about 140,000 people—concluded, and the case awaits a prosecutors’ submission and judges’ decision on whether it will proceed.
The case of former district chief Im Chaem has been sent to investigating judges after international and Cambodian prosecutors submitted opposing submissions, the former calling for the case to be sent to trial and the latter arguing it should be thrown out.
The only case still under investigation is that of Yim Tith, alias Ta Tith, who was charged in 2015 with crimes including the alleged genocide of the ethnic minority Khmer Krom people.
Mr. Hun Sen has warned that the cases could plunge Cambodia back into civil war. The tribunal has faced criticism over suspicions that it has been affected by Cambodian political interference, with the U.N. being accused of complicity for continuing its involvement in the cases while remaining silent on the issue.