Friday, July 28, 2006

Theary Seng : KR Tribunal Watch

Theary Seng, author of the Khmer Rouge survivor memoir, Daughter of the Killing Fields : Asrei's Story, now living back in Cambodia as a US-qualified lawyer and executive director of the Center for Social Development in Phnom Penh, and a keen advocate for the pending tribunal to bring to account the surving members of the Khmer Rouge hierachy, has posted her new website at
A 25-minute video interview with Ms Seng (pictured) can be seen on the BBC's HARDtalk news programme website here, where she describes her life under the KR and the heart-wrenching loss of both of her parents.

* * * * *
The Khmer Rouge Tribunal is mentioned in nearly every news story coming out of Cambodia in the last few weeks. The judges were sworn in recently and now the case is being put together to decide who the Tribunal will actually put on trial (aside from Ta Mok who died a few days ago, and Comrade Duch, who's already in custody), with proceedings expected to begin sometime in 2007. Personally, I don't feel that trying just a handful of the very top former KR leaders from the Central Committee is enough. I think it should be extended to at least another tier of leadership, if not two, including Zone and Military Commanders where there is evidence of their wrong-doing.
To read an interesting and factual introduction to the Tribunal, go to the DC-Cam website here.

1 comment:

Andy said...

This newspaper article relates to the forthcoming Tribunal and includes the important question of WHO will the Tribunal actually indict and to what level of KR leadership will the Tribunal go down to?

Questions of Culpability Circle Ta Mok In-Law. Friday, July 28, 2006
By Phann Ana and Adam Piore

Anlong Veng District, Oddar Meanchey province - At first glance, there is little to distinguish the thickset elderly man relaxing beneath a gazebo from the other mourners. Certainly, Meas Muth, son-in-law of recently deceased former Khmer Rouge commander Ta Mok, would prefer to avoid the spotlight.

In the days prior to Ta Mok's funeral on Monday he thwarted the efforts of a journalist to snap his photo, changing course to avoid the camera and holding up his hand to protest when approached. When pinned down, he answered questions about the upcoming Khmer Rouge tribunal with a curt dismissal.

"I don't think about that—I have no need to think about that," the 68-year-old told reporters.
But the little-known former Khmer Rouge general may soon find the topic unavoidable.

For years, discussions of a tribunal to try those most responsible for the deaths of some 1.7 million Cambodians during the 1975-1979 Pol Pot regime have focused on those belonging to its central committee, well-known figures such as Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Nuon Chea, Ta Mok, Ke Pauk and Khieu Samphan.
There is, however, a second tier of lesser-known subordinates whose names have also emerged in recent years as possible candidates for indictment.

In his 2001 book "Seven Candidates for Prosecution: Accountability for the Crimes of the Khmer Rouge," Stephen Heder, who is now a prosecution investigator for the tribunal, devotes 14 pages of his 110-page manuscript to Meas Muth and another commander named Sou Meth.

Both served as Communist Party of Kampuchea Military Division chairmen. Meas Muth rose through the Southwestern Zone, where Ta Mok was secretary, to become Secretary of Central Committee Division 164, which incorporated the Khmer Rouge navy.

The evidence relating to them "suggests individual responsibility on the part of both these individuals for facilitating the arrest and transfer to S-21 for execution of cadre from their divisions," Heder wrote in his book. "Further, the evidence strongly indicates that each official may be responsible as superiors for failing to prevent or punish arrests and executions in which their subordinates may have been involved," he added.

According to the 2004 book "Getting Away with Genocide?" by Tom Fawthrop and Helen Jarvis, who is now chief public affairs officer for the tribunal, the indictment of Meas Muth might portend the indictment of many others, and considerably expand the scope of the tribunal.

"One problem with including these two as prime suspects is that it extends the scope considerably beyond the highest bodies of the Center, raising the question of how many others held equal rank and would therefore logically be included as prime suspects," the pair wrote."It is not clear from their exposition that the crimes committed by these two were exceptional and, indeed, such expansion is the thrust of Heder's latest work," they added.

For his part, Meas Muth is generally cagey about the past and— when pressed too hard—gets up and walks away from reporters.

But as he relaxed, methodically rolling a cigarette out of tobacco and leaves, he was willing to offer some insights about his recently deceased uncle, and his feelings about the events of the Pol Pot regime.

Meas Muth denied knowing his father-in-law until 1980, a timeframe that fells outside the scope of the period the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is permitted to investigate. Their mandate is to prosecute those involved in the events of 1975 to 1979.

Even so, Meas Muth praised Ta Mok. "He directed us to live independently, to protect our land, to change the idea of slavery," he said. "For the Cambodian people...the people had the ideology of slavery," he said. "That's why we lost the land, lost territory and independence. We undertook the revolution to become independent. All together against Vietnam, Thailand, America, France."

Asked about the mass killings and executions during the regime, Meas Muth was unfazed. "It's the nature of human beings—one, to die by nature, two, to die because other human beings kill them," he said.

He said he had no regret for the actions and decisions of Ta Mok, who is blamed by many for the deaths of tens of thousands within the Southwestern Zone from which Meas Muth emerged as a promising young officer.

Meas Muth said that he felt the same way about Pol Pot. "What I regret is not their mistakes," he said. "I regret that other clever politicians still cannot understand their leadership."

The verdicts of the ECCC judges, Meas Muth opined, will depend on "their personal interests" and opinions.

But he delivered a warning. "We can compare [the situation] to water in a lake," he said. "We should preserve the water and keep it clean for tomorrow. It's hard to make the water clear. It's easy to make water dirty. We should not use the past as a stick to stir the water. It will make it dirty."

When pressed on why so many people had to die in Meas Muth and Ta Mok's Southwestern Zone, he said: "Leave that point to the court to make a judgement."

"Now that Ta Mok's dead who can explain whether the killing is right or wrong?" he said. Then he stood up and walked away.