Nuon Chea Says KR Trial Will Be His Battlefield

Nuon Chea, 82, the highest ranking member of the Khmer Rouge regime still alive, said Thursday that he was ready to face justice and break his long silence about the re­gime that claimed the lives of more than 1.7 million people.

“I consider this court a battlefield and I will not allow you to try me in an easy way,” Nuon Chea said by phone from his home in Pailin municipality.

“At the tribunal, I will show who the enemy was, and I will allow all people to know what was happening during this regime,” he said.

Nuon Chea said he had learned that the tribunal’s co-prosecutors were going to hand over their first case files to the co-investigating judges Tuesday, one day before the co-prosecutors officially an­nounced that they had done so.

On Wednesday, the co-prosecutors forwarded the names of five suspects who they believe should stand trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conven­tion, homicide, torture and religious persecution.

No suspects were named, but Nuon Chea, also known as Brother Number Two, said he figured his name was at the top of the list.

Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, known as Brother Number One, died in 1998.

“I guess that I am the first one, the second one is Khieu Samphan, the third is Ieng Sary, the fourth is Duch, but I do not know the fifth person,” Nuon Chea said, listing off his former comrades and likely suspects for prosecution.

Khieu Samphan was the head of state for Democratic Kampuchea, the Khmer Rouge’s name for Cam­bodia from 1976 to 1979.

Ieng Sary was the minister of foreign affairs for Democratic Kampuchea.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Khek Iev, was the chief of the notorious S-21 prison, where some 14,000 prisoners, many of them culled from the ranks of the Khmer Rouge, were tortured before being sent to their deaths. He has been in prison since 1999.

Nuon Chea also said he took issue with the co-prosecutors’ charges. “They charged us with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and destroying Bud­dhism and minority groups,” Nuon Chea said. “But it was not like this. We had no policy of killing people,” he said.

Nuon Chea said he has been preparing himself for a trial for many years. “I already have informed my children about the trial. It is nothing I am worried about. I am firm at this point,” he said.

Countless people have come to Nuon Chea, hoping to learn what occurred under the Khmer Rouge, and he said he knows he has never given a good answer.

“I am looking [forward] to when it is time for me to say it,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” he added. “I will go to court when they need me, and I will clarify everything at court and stop the accusations and stop people from saying the Khmer Rouge were monsters.”

But, he added: “If I am invited to court, please help take me because I have no car and give me a room to stay in. I think the $56 million is for this purpose, too.”

His wife, Ly Kim Seng, said Thursday that she was worried about her husband’s health.

“He is very old and I am thinking of him because it is difficult for him to move and have food if he is alone,” she said. “When he is with me, I assist him all the time and check his blood pressure every day,” she said.

Other former members of the Khmer Rouge and their relatives greeted Wednesday’s news that the tribunal had finally begun to grind forward with similar calm.

“Let’s do it,” said Meas Muth, 68, who was a Khmer Rouge military division chairman and now serves as an adviser to the Ministry of Defense.

Meas Muth’s late father-in-law was Khmer Rouge military commander Ta Mok.

“I will go to court if I am summoned, but please, the trial must be fair for all,” he said.

Ieng Sary’s son, Ieng Vuth, said he was nonplussed by Wednes­day’s news. “I do not know whether my fa­ther knows about this or not, but I will inform him and meet with him,” Ieng Vuth said.

Long Narin, who was a high ranking member of Ieng Sary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Khmer Rouge regime, warned that problems could arise if more suspects are named by the tribunal.

“If the trial is fair, I want to have it because I want the Khmer Rouge regime to be cleared,” he said. “But please be careful. If the accusations spread to more people, the government will face difficulties,” he added.

The tribunal’s co-Prosecutor Robert Petit said Thursday that the co-prosecutors’ office is continuing its investigative work.

“I expect that given the magnitude of the events, other facts and other suspects will come to light and there will be other submissions,” Petit said, noting that the tribunal’s co-investigating judges can also name additional suspects.

“This is not the end of the tribunal,” Petit said. “This is just the beginning.”

News that five Khmer Rouge suspects had been recommended for investigation prompted a flurry of speculation around Phnom Penh as to who was on the list.

Most drew the same conclusion as Nuon Chea, naming four of the most famous candidates for prosecution, who, if convicted, would bring the judicial record largely into line with the historical record.

However, the fifth possible suspect remained a wildcard.

Hisham Mousar, who has been monitoring the tribunal for local rights group Adhoc, urged court officials to reveal the names of their suspects as soon as possible.

“If they can’t reveal the names, how can they manage the expectations of public opinion?” he said. “People need to know.”

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