Thursday, September 29, 2005

KR Trial Should Be Wider in Scope, Expert Says

THE CAMBODIA DAILY
Saturday and Sunday, December 4-5, 2004
BY WILLIAM SHAW AND THET SAMBATH

The scope of the Khmer Rouge trial should be widened to allow the
investigation and possible prosecution of all members of the Khmer Rouge
Central Committee, an expert said Thursday.

Stephen Heder, co-author of the 2001 report "Seven Candidates for
Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge," said that
committee members between 1975 and 1979 should be investigated by the
tribunal.

It is uncertain how many people were in the Central Committee, but Heder
estimated that they probably numbered between 20 and 30.

Government officials have so far indicated that only a handful of surviving
regime leaders will stand trial.

Aside from Nuon Chea, former Khmer Rouge Brother No. 2, and Khieu Samphan,
former Khmer Rouge head of state, another surviving committee member is Sam
Bith, already serving a life sentence for killing three Western backpackers
in 1994.

"A single murder [between 1975 and 1979] would be sufficient to convict
him," Heder said. "My presumption is that evidence could be found that would
implicate [Sam Bith] in a lot more."

Sam Bith was deputy secretary of the South West Zone and deputy to Khmer
Rouge military commander Ta Mok between 1975 and 1979, Heder said.

Sam Bith is currently being treated for a stroke at Calmette Hospital, where
on Wednesday he appeared delirious and was unable to speak. His wife, Kim
Ry, denied Wednesday that her husband was a senior rebel leader.

Other former Khmer Rouge families also fear that their relatives, who were
granted amnesty when they defected to the government, may now be arrested,
she said.

"All of them [are] worried," she said.

But Chhouk Rin, another ex-rebel commander sentenced to life for the 1994
backpacker slayings said he supported an investigation into Sam Bith.

"He must be a candidate because he was a top Khmer Rouge leader under Ta Mok
and a Central Committee member," he said by telephone from Kampot province
on Thursday.

Sean Visoth, the government's tribunal task force executive secretary, said
Wednesday it was too early to raise the issue of whether or not more people
will be investigated.

Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, agreed.

"Before a court of law is established, people can call for anything," he
said Thursday. "I call for the establishment of the tribunal as soon as
possible."

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