anlong veng, Oddar Meanchey – Tuesday’s integration ceremony here featured more switching over than just Khmer Rouge foot soldiers donning new RCAF uniforms.
Two of their higher-profile comrades changed their stories on who is responsible for the atrocities of the Khmer Rogue’s brutal rule and whether a tribunal for the group’s leaders would result in a civil war.
Ke Pauk, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony in his new one-star RCAF general’s uniform, said that he never blamed the Khmer Rouge leadership for the deaths during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal Democratic Kampuchea regime.
Asked if he still stood by his statement last year that five Khmer Rouge leaders alone shared the blame for the killing during the group’s reign in the late 1970s, he said, “I never accused anybody.”
He also indicated that accusations of atrocities by the Khmer Rouge are exaggerated.
“It is normal to accuse the Khmer Rouge of this,” Ke Pauk said, when asked if he was responsible or aware of any of the estimated 1.7 million deaths from execution, starvation, overwork and disease during Democratic Kampuchea. “Many people accuse the Khmer Rouge.”
Ke Pauk defected last March with more than 2,000 of Anlong Veng’s mutineers. Just after he defected, he told journalists in a March 30 interview in a Siem Reap Hotel that five men were responsible for the killing: Son Sen, Pol Pot, Ta Mok, Nuon Chea and Ieng Sary.
“It was no one else,” he said at the time.
Ke Pauk, who researchers say would be a prime target of a tribunal of crimes against humanity, said Tuesday he would show up for a trial if asked to by the government despite his protestations of innocence.
Khem Nguon, who was one of Ta Mok’s top lieutenants until leading the sweeping Dec 4 defection of the rebel rank and file, told journalists Tuesday that the former Khmer Rouge would not respond violently to a tribunal of former Khmer Rouge.
“There won’t be any war in Cambodia…. because no one wants war in Cambodia,” he said.
Khem Nguon told the Associated Press two weeks after the defection of former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea that any attempt to arrest the pair “may cause a resumption of the war.”
The government, he said at the time, would be seen as reneging on the defection deal.
He did, however, acknowledge the Khmer Rouge were deserving of its worldwide “bad” reputation. “Sometimes we were too extreme,” he said.