Officials at the Military Court denied Wednesday that jailed Khmer Rouge military chief Ta Mok is suffering from serious health problems and said he should not be released from prison on humanitarian grounds.
The lawyer representing Ta Mok appealed Monday for the release of the aging rebel chief who has been detained in prison since 1999 and will turn 77-years-old next week.
Ta Mok, whose ruthlessness as a military commander earned him the nickname “the butcher,” should be freed on bail until a Khmer Rouge tribunal is convened, Benson Samay told a news conference.
“Ta Mok’s health is all right. He can walk and exercise,” Kim Huon, president of the Military Court’s Prosecution Department, said Wednesday.
“Every week, on Friday, Ta Mok is examined by a special doctor. There is a committee of doctors checking Ta Mok’s health,” Kim Huon said. “Benson Samay is not a doctor; he is just a lawyer,” he said. “What does he know about Ta Mok’s health?”
Vann Saven, the Military Prison’s permanent doctor, also said Wednesday that Ta Mok was in good health.
Several scares about the health of Ta Mok, a key suspect in a possible future Khmer Rouge tribunal, have circulated since he was lured out of the northwestern rebel stronghold of Anlong Veng in 1999 and imprisoned in Phnom Penh on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Prison Guard Un Sophal said Ta Mok eats three meals a day and his relatives are allowed short visits on Saturdays. However, he is not allowed to listen to the radio, watch television or read newspapers, Un Sophal said.
“Ta Mok likes playing [Cambodian] chess. He always asks the guards to play chess with him,” said a second guard.
Officials at Prey Sar prison also said the health of Sam Bith, the Khmer Rouge chief convicted on Monday of ordering the killing of three Western backpackers in 1994, has improved since his court appearance.
Sam Bith, 70, had the first day of his trial canceled after he became faint in court. He suffers from high blood pressure.
“Before the trial and the first day of trial, Sam Bith said he felt very ill and confused. Now he feels normal,” said Kim Sarin, a department director at Prey Sar prison.
Sam Bith is confidant the Appeals Court of Phnom Penh will reverse his life sentence, Kim Sarin said.