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Khieu Samphan Acknowledges Cambodian Genocide

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo Ex-Khmer Rouge leader acknowledges for first time that regime committed genocide
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2003
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      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Ex-Khmer Rouge leader acknowledges for first time that
      regime committed genocide
      Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 12:00 AM

      PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- A former Khmer Rouge leader expected
      to face a U.N. tribunal acknowledged Tuesday there is "no
      more doubt left" that his regime committed genocide, the
      first admission of the communist group's collective guilt.

      Khieu Samphan's surprising statement in an interview with
      The Associated Press is a major step in the long overdue
      effort to bring to justice those responsible for the deaths
      of 1.7 million Cambodians during the ultra-leftist group's
      1975-79 rule.

      Many of the victims were executed; the rest died of
      starvation, disease and overwork in the Khmer Rouge's
      attempt to create an agrarian utopia. Now, with an agreement
      on a tribunal earlier this month between U.N. and Cambodian
      officials, ex-Khmer Rouge leaders should soon face charges
      for the first time.

      A former head of state and one of the few top Khmer Rouge
      leaders still alive, Khieu Samphan, 72, is certain to be

      Speaking by telephone from his home, he apparently hoped to
      begin giving his version of Cambodia's bloody history before
      his likely prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity.

      He insisted he never ordered any killings -- and claimed he
      only learned from a documentary two months ago about the
      extent of the Khmer Rouge's crimes.

      "Everything has to go the trial's way now, and there's no
      other way," he said. "I have to prepare myself not to let
      the time pass away. But I also want the public to understand
      about me, too. I was not involved in any killings."

      Until Tuesday, none of the Khmer Rouge's top leaders had
      publicly accepted that the government committed genocide.

      But Khieu Samphan said he realized he could no longer ignore
      the Khmer Rouge's atrocities after he saw a documentary
      about the notorious S-21 prison, presented to him by a
      Cambodian-French filmmaker, Rithy Pan.

      "When I saw the film, it was hard for me to deny (the
      killings). There's no more doubt left," said Khieu Samphan,
      who lives in Pailin, 175 miles northwest of the capital,
      Phnom Penh.

      "I was surprised, because I never thought it (the regime)
      went to that extent in its policies. S-21 was in the middle
      of Phnom Penh. It was clearly a state institution. It was
      part of the regime."

      Until he saw the film, he said he had reserved his judgment
      about the prison's existence and atrocities.

      As many as 16,000 people are believed to have passed through
      the gates of the infamous prison but only 14 are thought to
      have survived. The prison is now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

      None of the Khmer Rouge's surviving leadership has faced
      justice. Many are infirm but -- like Khieu Samphan -- live
      and move freely in the country. Pol Pot, the regime's
      supremo, died in 1998.

      After five years of negotiations, U.N. and Cambodian
      officials tentatively agreed this month on steps to set up
      the tribunal.

      But the court's creation has been delayed by a lack of funds
      and by political instability after Cambodia's inconclusive
      general elections left three parties jostling to create a

      U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan plans to launch an appeal
      in early February for contributions toward the tribunal's
      $40 million operating budget. Sok An, the Cambodian
      government's chief negotiator for setting up the court, has
      said its formalization will be "addressed immediately" once
      a new legislature is formed.

      The other senior leader expected to face trial is Nuon Chea,
      the former Khmer Rouge's ideologue, who also lives in
      Pailin. He and Khieu Samphan surrendered to the government
      in December 1998, just a few months before the capture of Ta
      Mok, the former Khmer Rouge army chief, which capped the
      final collapse of the movement.

      Ta Mok and Kaing Khek Iev, the S-21 prison's chief, are now
      in prison.

      This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A4.

      Dan Clore

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