Samphan, Chea Interviews Used Against Them at Tribunal

The prosecution at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday used past interviews with Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in an attempt to prove they were part of a “Gang of Three” with Pol Pot responsible for wreaking devastation across the country in the 1970s.

In what was likely its final closing statement at the tribunal, the prosecution poured scorn on efforts by the regime’s “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people.

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Khieu Samphan, left, and Nuon Chea attend a hearing at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh in 2013. (ECCC)ECC

The prosecution cited numerous interviews from the defendants, including clips from recorded interviews with journalist Thet Sambath in which Nuon Chea admitted he had “no regrets” for those that the Khmer Rouge killed.

“Believe me, if these traitors were alive, the Khmers as a people would have been finished. I dare to suggest our decision was the correct one. If I had shown mercy to these people, the nation would have been lost. But if the individual becomes a problem, then they must be solved,” Nuon Chea says.

“They were enemies of the people. They mistreated the people,” he adds.

Another interview, in which Nuon Chea said enemies needed to be eliminated to prevent them from spreading “their eggs,” proved Pol Pot’s right-hand man saw the need to wipe out relatives of suspected traitors, said assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak.

“That is his justification for the killings. We see in this statement by Nuon Chea, his agreement with the [Communist Party of Kampuchea] practice…of arresting and killing not only the person accused of disloyalty, but their spouses and children,” Mr. Lysak said.

Khieu Samphan’s claims that he knew of not one arrest that took place under the regime were also false, the prosecutor said. He cited a 1980 interview with prominent Khmer Rouge academic Stephen Heder in which Khieu Samphan said the regime was able to “deal” completely with Vietnamese “undercover agents” in 1977 and 1978.

“The evidence, your honors, refutes the lie we have heard from Khieu Samphan…that he did not know of a single arrest during the period of Democratic Kampuchea,” he said.

After arguing that the defendants should be found guilty of committing genocide against Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese due to the regime’s intent to destroy the groups in whole or in part, international co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian ended by stating that they were Pol Pot’s “closest associates.”

“The center’s center consisted of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. This ‘Gang of Three,’ who together were the very center, ensured the policies of Pol Pot were carried out,” he said, before highlighting Khieu Samphan’s previous claims that the three always ate together during the regime to suggest he was “well aware of the policies of Pol Pot.”

“Let’s picture during the DK regime—Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan having their dinner together. What are they going to talk about? Football? Movies?”

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