Khieu Samphan Acknowledges Cambodian Genocide
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Ex-Khmer Rouge leader acknowledges for first time that
regime committed genocide
Wednesday, December 31, 2003 - 12:00 AM
Ker Munthit THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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
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,
"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
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
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A4.
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