Revolution was to serve the people, 'killing fields' chief says
A DEFIANT Khmer Rouge leader accused of having the blood of 1.7 million of his fellow Cambodians on his hands told the UN-backed genocide tribunal yesterday that the notorious regime had acted for the sake of the country and its people.
Nuon Chea (85), the communist regime's "brother number two" regarded as its chief ideologue, said that the litany of unspeakable atrocities outlined by prosecutors at the opening of the trial were a fabrication.
"Whatever has been indicated in the opening statements is not true," he told the packed special courthouse in Phnom Penh's outskirts. "My position in the revolution was to serve the interest of the nation and the people."
With two other senior surviving leaders of the 1970s regime -- Khieu Samphan (80), the nominal head of state, and Ieng Sary (86), the foreign minister -- he is accused of a catalogue of charges including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
All deny the allegations.
A fourth defendant, Ieng Thirith (79), wife of Ieng Sary and the regime's "First Lady" as minister for social affairs, would also have been in the court but was ruled unfit to stand trial last week as she is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
The quartet served as the henchmen to "brother number one", Pol Pot, acting out their catastrophic revolution when they won power between 1975 and 1979, attempting to turn Cambodia into an ultra-Maoist agrarian utopia. Pol Pot died in the Cambodian jungles in 1998.
Prosecutors painted a gruesome picture of how the regime cleared the cities in a vast forced movement of Cambodian people to work in the countryside where many died of starvation, overwork and medical neglect.
But in their opening statements they also told of the cruelty they said would be tied directly to the three men in the dock. They told of people -- including Buddhist monks -- forced to marry against their will, leading to rape; of a two-year-old baby killed when his head was smashed against a tree; and also of executioners holding a throat-slashing competition.
British lawyer Andrew Cayley, the international co-prosecutor, told the tribunal that the regime's chief torturer, the only person so far convicted by the court, would be a key witness against the trio. King Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, was sentenced to 35 years, reduced to 19 last year.
During the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror almost a quarter of the Cambodian population -- 1.7 million -- died, or were tortured to death or killed, forced to make false confessions of being CIA agents before they were murdered in the "killing fields" on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. (© Daily Telegraph, London)