Members of the immediate and extended family of retired King Norodom Sihanouk were murdered by the Khmer Rouge as retribution for his 1976 resignation as head of state, the former monarch said Friday.
In a handwritten note e-mailed to the media Saturday, Norodom Sihanouk said the killings of his relatives were carried out despite pleas from the highest levels of the Chinese government.
At a September 1975 meeting in Beijing attended by both Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Princess Monineath, Chairman Mao Tse-tung asked Khmer Rouge central committee members Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith, who later became Minister of Social Action, “to treat Prince N Sihanouk, Princess Monique his wife and their children well,” according to the note.
By March 1976, then-Prince Sihanouk was moved to resign because of the cruelties inflicted on the Cambodian population under Democratic Kampuchea. State Presidium Chairman Khieu Samphan, currently under investigation at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, then replaced Norodom Sihanouk as head of state.
“As ‘retribution,’ the Khmer Rouge murdered in horrible circumstances five of my children and 14 of my grand-children, cousins and their respective wives (Princes Phurissara, Mathavi),” he wrote in the message, titled “Several Members of My Family, victims of the diabolical and super-cruel KHMER ROUGE.”
With the exception of Princess Sujata, all were members of the resistance movement against the Khmer Republic, Norodom Sihanouk wrote.
“In Paris in 1980, with visible delight, Lon Nol refugees in the West told me that the K Rouge had given some of my grandchildren to the crocodiles.
“The others of my grandchildren had their respective heads smashed against tree trunks,” the retired King wrote in his letter’s conclusion.
French defender Jacques Verges, who is representing Khieu Samphan at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, said by telephone Monday that he had no immediate reaction to the statements from the retired King.
Phat Pouvseang, Cambodian attorney for Ieng Thirith, said Monday that he had not yet read the statement and declined to comment.
Verges and Cambodian defense lawyer Say Bory, who is also a legal adviser to Norodom Sihanouk, are to argue at the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Pre-Trial Chamber on Wednesday morning that there is insufficient evidence to continue Khieu Samphan’s detention, for which they say grounds have also not been met.