Wife Unaware of Khieu Samphan’s Role in KR

Khieu Samphan’s wife concluded her testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday by claiming that her husband was not a senior leader of the Pol Pot regime, and that she is confident af­ter more than 30 years of marriage that he possesses a strong moral character.

Khieu Samphan, who is standing trial for crimes against humanity, was never considered a senior leader of the regime, his wife, So Socheat, told the court. Despite the assertion, however, Ms. Socheat also said that she did not know exactly what her husband’s activities consisted of.

“I do not know for sure what he did. He worked at his office and occasionally he would go to K-1,” Ms. Socheat said, referring to the re­gime’s leadership office.

“I never thought that he was a senior person.”

In response, Elisabeth Simmoneau Fort, the international civil party lead co-lawyer, echoed the prosecution’s argument on Tuesday that Ms. Socheat was not being honest with the court.

“I think I agree with the prosecutor, with what he said yesterday. I think you are not telling us the truth at all, and I regret this very much,” Ms. Simmoneau Fort said.

Ms. Socheat ended by expounding on her husband’s character. “I have lived with him for over 30 years and I have known him very well,” she said. “He is not an opportunist or someone who seeks fame or power, and he is not wicked or a cruel person, and he never made any arrests.”

Yet the afternoon testimony by 62-year-old Sim Hao painted a different picture of Khieu Samphan’s role.

Mr. Hao, from Kompong Thom province, joined the revolution as a soldier in 1972, but after the Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, he was re-assigned to work in Preah Sihanouk province and later Phnom Penh for the Ministry of Commerce.

While Mr. Hao was working in an agricultural warehouse near Tuol Tompong pagoda in Phnom Penh, he saw Khieu Samphan visit with then-Commerce Minister Van Rith.

“I saw him come to inspect the products but he did not stop and talk to us. He went along the road accompanied by [Van Rith],” Mr. Hao said. “Then he gave instructions that we should be careful and attentive to the work because the product is for export.”

According to Mr. Hao, tons of rice, beans, rubber and cotton were destined for export to foreign countries. Such exports were cultivated by starving farmers forced to work by the regime.

“For export, what I saw and what I carried onto trains and ships included rubber, cotton products and grade-A husk rice and beans,” he said. “For those who actually worked in the rice fields, we were told they had more food and that made us happy to hear it. But in fact, the situation in the rice fields was the opposite and all the people there suffered.”

Mr. Hao continues his testimony today.

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