‘Vital Witness’ Pol Pot’s Older Sister Dies at 89

Former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s oldest sister, Saloth Roe­ung, who was described as a “vital witness” in the planned Khmer Rouge tribunals, died at her Kom­pong Thom province home Fri­day.

Saloth Roeung had been battling high blood pressure for years and suffered a stroke two years ago that left her bedridden at age 89, Youk Chhang, executive director of the Documentation Cen­ter of Cam­bodia, said Sun­day.

Saloth Roeung was a former con­cubine of King Monivong and had brought her brother to Phnom Penh where he be­gan his rise to power, Youk Chhang said.

He said she would have been called upon to testify about her brother’s life before he became Brother Number One. “She was a very vital witness to de­s­crib­ing her brother’s background,” he said.

Youk Chhang said he interviewed Saloth Roeung in 1999, at which time she described Saloth Sar, also known as Pol Pot, as very gentle and couldn’t understand what had happened in the years after he left his family.

Helen Jarvis, adviser to the government’s tribunal task force, ag­reed Saloth Roeung’s death could have an impact on future trials.                         “The death of any potential witness is a blow and the longer the pro­cess is delayed the more we will see this,” she said.

The UN is currently finalizing the details of the tribunal’s an­nounced $56-million working bud­get, of which the international com­munity will be asked to contribute $43 million, with Cam­bodia paying the remainder. So far, $26.7 million has been offered from Ja­pan, Aus­tra­lia, Britain and France.

While Jarvis said Youk Chhang’s interview with Saloth Roeung will be useful for the tribunal, she did not know how it would be handled as evidence as defense lawyers will not be able to cross-examine her.

Khmer Rouge academic Ste­phen Heder said Saloth Roeung’s death and former Tuol Sleng pri­son chief Comrade Duch’s health isues highlight the importance of conducting a tribunals soon.

However, he said, “I certainly wouldn’t include her” in the list of important witnesses, saying she likely would not have had much to offer in the way of evidence.


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