Blaming gambling and other social ills for a widening gulf between Cambodia’s rich and poor, former Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea said that during the ultra-leftist regime top cadre at least tried to feed everyone.
“The past regime was not good and there were more poor people. We tried to make everyone equal and make sure everyone had food to eat in [Democratic Kampuchea],” Nuon Chea said Saturday from his home in Pailin.
Nuon Chea denied reports he was in Thailand over the weekend for medical treatment, saying he stayed in his house. But he said his health is irregular—“sometimes good, sometimes bad.”
The UN General Assembly is set to vote on a measure that would resume talks with Cambodia on a Khmer Rouge tribunal.
The Khmer Rouge’s leaders have repeatedly denied direct knowledge of the mass deaths between 1975 and 1979, when more than 1 million people perished—many through starvation.
But others have at least acknowledged the Khmer Rouge’s near destruction of Cambodia. “When we made revolution, it was disaster,” said Suong Sikoeun, a former Democratic Kampuchea foreign affairs ministry official who is now spokesman for the Democratic National Union Movement, which is described by members—many of them former Khmer Rouge officials—as a democracy group. “The price of the Khmer Rouge is indefensible,” he said in an interview in Malai last year.
Former Khmer Rouge premier Khieu Samphan told Agence France-Presse last week that trial plans should be replaced with a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
But that idea was slammed by Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, who said in an e-mail Sunday that “a truth commission works only for the middle level and lower level cadres, the thousands of them who cannot and should not all be prosecuted because it would be too disruptive to society.”
(Additional reporting by Seth Meixner)