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A Trial for the Khmer Rouge?

Cornering the Khmer Rouge

Dateline: 19 March 2000. As a UN team is now in Phnom Penh, the time seems right to review the events leading to a genocide trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders. More than 20 years after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia that ousted the Pol Pot regime, the Cambodian government is in the final stages of negotiations with the United Nations over bringing the former Khmer Rouge leadership to trial for crimes committed between 1975 and 1979.

Retaining control over the process is critical to the Hun Sen government as it attempts to build on the power base it has been consolidating since 1979. For the United Nations, issues of credibility are primarily what is at stake. The trial must appear to meet minimum standards of justice if the UN is to avoid a further loss of face after the mishaps of the Bosnian and Rwandan tribunals. For international funders, the trial is only one of many criteria by which they are assessing the progress of Cambodian reform. Somewhere in this mix, the interests of the victims play a part. However, it is politics and power that drive the process.

Despite the many contradictions, the events leading up to the present situation can be organised into four phases. Each phase represents a different configuration of the Cambodian government on the one hand and a variety of external players on the other. Not coincidentally, the positions of the Cambodian government, the United Nations, the United States and the international donor community have shifted and flip-flopped according to changes in political agendas and relations of power.

Lest we forget - the Khmer Rouge reign of terror cost 1.7 million lives. Photo by Darren WhitesidePHASE 1: 1979-1989: The first phase began with the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 and continued until the collapse of the former Soviet block and final withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in 1989. On January 7, 1979, Vietnamese troops invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Pol Pot regime. In its place it installed the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), comprised in part of former Khmer Rouge cadres including Hun Sen who had escaped internal purges by fleeing to Vietnam. The PRK immediately proclaimed itself liberator of Cambodia from the genocidal "Pol Pot-Ieng Sary clique" and attempted to defeat the remnant Khmer Rouge forces that had regrouped in the mountains along the Thai-Cambodian border. Meanwhile, outside of Cambodia the Khmer Rouge retained their seat in the United Nations General Assembly and began to receive support from the United States and China, who used Khmer Rouge forces as a proxy for opposing its cold war adversaries, the Vietnamese, and their main supporter, the former Soviet Union. During this phase, bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice was invoked by the PRK as part of a political strategy to affirm its place as the country's legal and moral authority.

In August of 1979, the PRK created a tribunal to try Pol Pot and Ieng Sary in absentia. The tribunal found them guilty of genocide and sentenced them to death. A jury of ten people proclaimed them guilty of the deaths of three million people, destroying religion, the economic structure, culture, and family and social relationships. This message was reinforced in government propaganda and later with national celebrations such as "Hate Day," an annual event dedicated to recalling the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period. For the United States, justice was seen in very different terms. From a cold war perspective, the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam was a violation of international law, and the spread of communist domination of Southeast Asia posed a threat to American values of democracy and freedom. US foreign policy ensured that the PRK, unlike the Khmer Rouge, remained politically isolated from the international community and unable to access aid for rebuilding its decimated society.

PHASE 2: 1989-1993: With the final withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Cambodia in 1989, US policy changed, and a new phase began. The US discontinued its support for the Khmer Rouge, and despite the objections of the Cambodian government, attempted to engage the Khmer Rouge in the peace process. In 1989, the First Paris Conference on Cambodia failed, however, and Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and their allies (including Sihanouk) resumed their attempt to take power from Hun Sen's newly proclaimed State of Cambodia (SOC). Negotiations continued, and in January 1990, the Supreme National Council (SNC), composed of six SOC members and two from each of the three opposition groups, including the Khmer Rouge representatives Khieu Samphan and Son Sen, was formed to work out the obstacles to a settlement between the different parties.

On October 23, 1991, the Paris Agreement on Cambodia was signed by the four Cambodian parties and 18 foreign ministers of interested countries. The Khmer Rouge acted as a full participant and signed the agreement but later declined to abide by its provisions for a ceasefire, UN supervision, demobilisation and disarmament. The United Nations Security Council did not give the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), the UN body charged with organising elections, a mandate to pursue trials against Khmer Rouge leaders or deprive them of their benefits under the Agreement. In May 1993, UN-sponsored general elections were held in Cambodia. Following the elections a coalition government was formed by Prince Norodom Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC Party, which won a plurality of votes, and Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP). In a fateful move, the Khmer Rouge boycotted the elections. They became political pariahs on the world stage, but still managed to sustain a military threat from the border with funds from illegal trade in gems and timber. Hun Sen, on the other hand, through a weak coalition with Norodom Ranariddh, gained the international legitimacy necessary for obtaining urgently needed donor funding.

PHASE 3: DISMANTLING/ASSIMILATING THE KHMER ROUGE (1994-1999): After the 1993 elections, the newly formed Cambodian coalition government began to receive substantial reconstruction and humanitarian aid. During this phase, the Cambodian government began to dismantle the Khmer Rouge and assimilate its remaining forces into the the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF). In January 1994, the Cambodian National Assembly passed legislation outlawing the Khmer Rouge. Using a carrot and stick strategy, former Khmer Rouge leaders were given positions within the RCAF in exchange for their defection from the Khmer Rouge forces. A trial of the Khmer Rouge was now supported by the United States on moral grounds, and by the international donor community as a means for assessing the reliability of the Cambodian government's legal and economic institutions. In April 1994, the US Congress passed legislation aimed at bringing the Khmer Rouge leadership to justice stating that "Consistent with international law, it is the policy of the United States to support efforts to bring to justice members of the Khmer Rouge for their crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia between April 17, 1975, and January 7, 1979."An outcome of US policy came in December 1994 with the establishment of the Cambodian Genocide Program (CGP).

The Cambodian government pursued a Khmer Rouge trial to the extent necessary to appease the international community and intimidate the remaining Khmer Rouge leadership, while being careful not to jeopardise its strategy of assimilating the Khmer Rouge forces into the RCAF. Hun Sen's policy redefined justice in terms of national reconciliation. Peace and stability, the government claimed, were preferable to pursuing disruptive legal proceedings against the Khmer Rouge for past crimes. Of course, the policy primarily served to consolidate Hun Sen's hold on political power and demonstrated his growing ability to dictate the terms of justice in Cambodia. The first major success of the Cambodian government's strategy came on September 15, 1996, when it provided amnesty to Ieng Sary, former Deputy Prime Minister of the Khmer Rouge government. The amnesty covered his 1979 conviction by the PRK tribunal which had sentenced him in absentia to death, as well as the 1994 law outlawing the Khmer Rouge. The amnesty of Ieng Sary brought former Khmer Rouge troops loyal to him and the territories they controlled within Cambodian government control and caused a split with the remaining Khmer Rouge forces. Evidence of this split appeared in April 1997, when Son Sen, the former Khmer Rouge Deputy Prime Minister, and his family were killed by Pol Pot at the Khmer Rouge stronghold in Anlong Veng. Pol Pot, in turn, was placed under house arrest by rival Khmer Rouge leaders Ta Mok, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. The final demise of Pol Pot was imminent. Ta Mok was now in control, and in May 1997, Pol Pot was tried by rival Khmer Rouge forces in their jungle base at Anlong Veng. Finally, on April 15, 1998, Pol Pot died, supposedly of a heart attack.

LANDMARK RESOLUTION: On April 11, 1997, the United Nations finally provided the Cambodian government with a mechanism for bringing the Khmer Rouge before an international tribunal. On that date the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1997/49 which requests "the Secretary General, through his Special Representative, to examine any request for assistance in responding to past serious violations of Cambodian and international law."On June 21, then First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh and then Second Prime Minister Hun Sen responded to the offer in a letter requesting the assistance of the UN and international community "in bringing to justice those persons responsible for the genocide and crimes against humanity during rule Khmer Rouge rule from 1975 to 1979."The actual intentions of Ranariddh and Hun Sen in making this request, however, are not clear. The two were engaged in an intense internal power struggle of their own, and the remaining Khmer Rouge forces were a wild card in that rivalry. Ranariddh was believed to be forging alliances with the Khmer Rouge to counterbalance Hun Sen's control of the Cambodian military with its growing force of Khmer Rouge defectors. Ranariddh's tactic was ill-conceived, however, and in July Hun Sen took power in a bloody coup that ousted his political rival. It appears from this scenario that as long as the control of political power in Phnom Penh remained uncertain and the Khmer Rouge served as a potential tie-breaker in gaining control, there would be no real resolve by the Cambodian government to bring the Khmer Rouge before an international tribunal as now called for by the United Nations.

This political instability and use of the Khmer Rouge was very costly for the Cambodian government, however, because it seriously limited the amount of risk international donors were willing to take. Typical of Hun Sen's political pragmatism, he gave priority to consolidating power knowing that the financial benefits would follow. After he was in firm control, he could revise his position on "bringing the Khmer Rouge to justice" as needed in order to secure international aid. In the meantime, Hun Sen pursued his strategy of absorbing the remaining Khmer Rouge forces into the RCAF. In March 1998, Khmer Rouge units led by Khmer Rouge commander Ke Pauk mutinied against Ta Mok and joined forces with the Cambodian government. Hun Sen's international standing damaged by the July 1997 coup was effectively restored with the holding of general elections in July 1998. Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) formed a new coalition government with Norodom Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC party, with Hun Sen as the dominant player.

VEXING ISSUE: The issue of immunity was a vexing one for Australian foreign policy, for behind the scenes, Australia actively encouraged the granting of immunity to weaken the Khmer Rouge insurgency. The Australian perspective was complicated when judicial immunity served to undermine accountability for its own. This problem came to the fore in April 1994, when Australian model Kellie Wilkinson and two British friends were abducted while travelling in a taxi to the coastal town of Sihanoukville, and shot dead on the banks of a stream the next morning. Only one rank and file Khmer Rouge soldier, Chuon Samnang, was ever convicted for the killings, and doubts have arisen as to whether he is still in custody. Three months later, in a highly publicised case, Australian David Wilson and his French and British travelling companions were kidnapped and later killed. The case involved Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Paet and his commanding officer Sam Bith. A September 25, 1994 transmission from Paet to Bith reads: "According to the instructions of #99 [Pol Pot], the recommendations are that these three [foreign hostages] have no further use. Suggestion to #37 [Sam Bith] is that they must be destroyed... After the execution keep it strictly secret. "Sometime between September 28 and the end of the month, the three Western hostages were executed. Their graves were found on October 30, six days after Paet's stronghold at Phnom Voar was captured by RCAF troops. What at first appeared to have been a situation that could have been resolved by handing over a ransom of about $50,000 for each of the hostages, was soon complicated by Pol Pot's determination to hold onto the three foreigners in order to use them as a bargaining chip to force the Australian and French governments to stop all military aid to the Cambodian government.

On August 1, 1998, just six days after Cambodia's July 26 national election, which had been widely supported by Australia, France and Britain, police captured Nuon Paet by luring him to Phnom Penh under the pretext of making a business deal. Hun Sen's political rivals, as well as the victims' families, said the arrest was a stunt to win international support for his controversial election victory and a Hun Sen-led coalition government. By this time, both Nuon Paet and Sam Bith, who was captured in early 1997, had been incorporated into the RCAF. Despite the fact that 1994 transcripts of radio transmissions captured from Paet's hideout at Phnom Voar clearly show that he had received orders from Pol Pot to kill the captives, Paet had yet to go to trial for the murders of three foreign hostages. On December 30, 1998, the Cambodian Government announced the defection of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan from the Khmer Rouge to the RCAF. And on February 12, 1999, the Cambodian government announced that it had incorporated the last remnants of the Khmer Rouge into the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. Although no former Khmer Rouge leaders had been apprehended or brought before a court on criminal charges relating to their years in power, and Ta Mok was still at large, the confidence of the international community in the stability of the Cambodian government was apparently renewed.That same month $470 million was pledged for Cambodia for 1999 at an international donors meeting in Tokyo, the first international donors meeting since the coup of July 1997. The support, however, was not unconditional, and the funds were made subject to review every three months over concerns for human rights.

A litmus test for Hun Sen

Hun Sen, Cambodia's Prime MinisterIn February 1999, Hun Sen (pictured right) proclaimed the end of the Khmer Rouge military threat. Firmly in power, he was prepared to begin the final phase of events leading to a trial of the former Khmer Rouge leadership. This phase formally began in 1997 with a letter to the UN Secretary General from then-First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh and then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for assistance in trying the Khmer Rouge leadership. In 1998, the UN Secretary General created the Group of Experts for Cambodia led by Australian Sir Ninian Stephen, and in February 1999, the group submitted its report recommending the creation of an international tribunal to judge the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period. During this final phase, the perspectives of the Cambodian government and the international community regarding a Khmer Rouge trial are the reverse of what they were in the first phase between 1979 and 1989. Now, the US and the international community are calling for legal proceedings against the Khmer Rouge leadership, while the Hun Sen government considers legal proceedings a possible hindrance to its consolidation of power.

Guided by a perverse political pragmatism similar to that of the US and the international community during the first phase, judicial proceedings against the Khmer Rouge leadership serve Hun Sen's purposes only to the extent that they reassure the international donor community of his government's reliability for receiving additional aid. The Hun Sen government has been hard pressed, however, to convince the international community of its judicial system's credibility. On February 26, 1999, a US State Department report entitled Cambodia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998 described the inadequacy and highly politicised nature of the Cambodian judiciary. The report states: "A serious lack of resources and poor training contribute to inefficiency in the judicial branch, and in practice the Government does not ensure due process." Because of this skepticism, the trial of the Khmer Rouge leadership has become a litmus test for assessing the trustworthiness of the Hun Sen government. In response, the government has taken a number of steps to demonstrate its resolve to pass this test. On March 6, 1999, Chhit Choeun alias Mok, the former Khmer Rouge military leader known as "the Butcher," was captured by the Cambodian army and charged by a military tribunal under the 1994 Cambodian law banning the Khmer Rouge. Two months later, Kang Kek Ieu, known as Deuch or Duch, the former chief of the Khmer Rouge interrogation and execution facility Tuol Sleng, was charged under the same law.

At the same time, the Cambodian government was simultaneously making significant diplomatic and political gains on the world stage. At an international donors meeting in February 1999, the first donors meeting since the July 1997 coup, US$470 million was pledged to Cambodia, $100 million of which was from Japan. However, the promise of funds came with the precondition that Cambodia carry out sweeping reforms in the military and the civil service and was subject to review every three months. On April 30, Cambodia became the tenth country to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). And on August 11, in time for the September 9 deadline for Mok's trial, the national assembly approved a new law extending the period of detention without trial from six months to three years for people charged with serious offences like crimes against humanity. By the time talks with the UN negotiating team began at the end of August 1999, the stage was set for Cambodia to affirm its insistence on a Cambodian-controlled trial. Not surprisingly, the talks ended without agreement as each side used the opportunity to state its position. Ralph Zacklin, the UN assistant secretary for legal affairs who led the UN team, said that if the Cambodian government did not meet conditions that the UN believes necessary for a tribunal of international standards, "The UN will simply cease to follow this process."Specifically, the UN wanted to see a special court set up under Cambodian law with foreign judges in the majority and an internationally appointed prosecutor. For its part, the Cambodian government reiterated its insistence that while it would allow international participation, it, not the international community, would control the process. That is, the trial would take place in Cambodia, under Cambodian law and with a majority of Cambodian judges and prosecutors.

The Cambodian government was negotiating from a position of increasing strength as its strategy to win the support of international financial institutions began to yield results. In August, teams from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank returned to Cambodia for talks on resuming multi-million dollar loans. The IMF had a $120 million three-year programme in Cambodia, but only half of the loans had been disbursed when it, along with the World Bank, suspended its assistance in mid-1997 in the aftermath of the coup. At the end of August 1999, the IMF reached an agreement in principle on a new $80 million loan, but before concluding the deal it wanted to see action on revenue management and forestry. In response, Finance Minister Keat Chhon said the government would act to meet the IMF's conditions.

HUN SEN'S OPTIONS: On September 7, Mok was charged with genocide under a 1979 decree. This meant that he could be held for up to three years in jail without trial according to the new law on detention for serious crimes. Two weeks later, at the United Nations General Assembly, Hun Sen delivered a document to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan outlining three options for UN involvement in a Khmer Rouge tribunal:-

1) provide a legal team to help Cambodian lawyers draft laws and to assign judges and prosecutors in Cambodia's existing courts.

2) provide only a legal team and not participate in a trial.

3) withdraw completely from the proposed trial.

As evidence of the Cambodian government's resolve to hold a trial albeit on its own terms, Sok An, head of Cambodia's task force for the Khmer Rouge trials, said his legal team would finalise its draft law for a trial within a few weeks and seek approval from the cabinet, the National Assembly and the Senate. On September 24, the day after Sok An's announcement, the Japanese chairman of the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund, Kyousuke Hinozawa, and the Cambodian minister of economy and finance, Keat Chhon, signed documents to extend a 4.14 billion yen ($40 million) soft loan to Cambodia. It was the first loan to the country by Japan in 30 years.

As further evidence of Cambodia's improved economy and world standing, Cambodian Tourism Minister Veng Serivuth announced on September 27 that tourism in the first six months of 1999 was 37 percent higher compared with the same period the previous year. While the Cambodian government remained steadfast in its insistence to control the format of a Khmer Rouge trial, international approval of the trial was still necessary to win the confidence of world financial institutions. At this point, the United States, which has remained in the background of the negotiations, stepped in to break the impasse in negotiations between the UN and the Cambodian government. In October, the US suggested a compromise proposal which called for a tribunal with three Cambodian judges and two UN-appointed judges. Decisions would require a supermajority, by which at least one of the UN-appointed judges would have to agree with any verdict passed by the tribunal. On October 19, Hun Sen expressed his support for the US proposal, thereby demonstrating his willingness to bend in order to gain international endorsement of the trial. The strategy appeared to be paying off, and on October 25, the IMF officially renewed the $81.6 million loan programme for Cambodia initially discussed in August. Kong Vibol, secretary of state for finance, said that the resumption of loans indicated that the IMF was becoming satisfied with Cambodia's commitment to economic reform. The Cambodian minister of finance Keat Chhon said the resumption of IMF assistance sent a positive signal to the financial community and aid donors. He added that Cambodia would continue to press ahead with key reforms to assure other international financial institutions and donor countries that the IMF's confidence in his government was not misguided.

As mentioned above, an important concern voiced at the February international donors meeting was the reform of the civil service. At the top of the list of concerns was the demobilisation of the Cambodia's inflated military. The demobilisation working group, chaired by the World Bank, expressed serious doubts over the ability of the government to deal with the problems of demobilisation. There were some 148,000 military servicemen in Cambodia, and nearly half of the government's $400 million budget is allocated to the military. In other words, the amount of annual foreign aid approximately equals the military budget. Hun Sen's power base is built in part on the support of the military establishment, and cutting military spending rife with opportunities for corruption poses a serious challenge to his authority and resolve. The Cambodian government responded to the donor community's skepticism saying that it aimed to cut some 55,000 members from its military and divert spending to areas such as education and health. To reassure donor countries of its commitment, the government made regular announcements of its progress. In June 1999, at a meeting with representatives of donor countries, Prime Minister Hun Sen said, "After only a few months, we have removed 12,868 soldiers and 105,234 ghost dependents from the military payrolls. As a result, some 9 billion riels (about $2.4 million) was saved in this fiscal year. "In August, a government official announced that thousands of ghost government soldiers and tens of thousands of their dependents had been discovered in addition to the previous figures provided in June. Finally, just prior to the October quarterly donors meeting, a Cambodian government report said 15,151 ghost soldiers had been found on the public payroll in the January-September period.

LITTLE PROGRESS ON DEMOBILISATION: The government's actions on demobilisation were apparently sufficient to satisfy donors, and at the October 27 quarterly meeting, the donors and the government renewed their agreement. The identification of ghost soldiers notwithstanding, there was very little real progress on the demobilisation of soldiers, which was the core of military reform. And although fiscal reforms had led to increased tax revenues, spending on health and education was still minimal, and military spending still accounted for nearly half of the budget. One of the most alarming statistics announced at the meeting concerned the sharp rise in violent crime. The impact of violent crime has obvious implications for Cambodia's appeal to donors and potential investors, to say nothing of the threat it poses to the people's confidence in their country's judicial system. The situation provided Hun Sen with a perfect opportunity to extend his power while addressing the donor community's concerns about the rule of law in Cambodia.

During the first week of December 1999, he ordered the rearrest of offenders who had been reportedly released by court officials after offering them bribes totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, Phnom Penh's municipal court chief and chief prosecutor were suspended on charges of corruption. In response to the crackdown, the top UN human rights official Thomas Hammarberg suggested that the actions taken were unconstitutional, since only the country's top legal body, the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, had the authority to take action against judges and prosecutors who allegedly violate the law. Not surprisingly, Hun Sen's actions were supported by the state-run Television Kampuchea which claimed thousands of Cambodians had sent them statements welcoming the crackdown on crime and corruption. Despite objections from some human rights activists who feared the crackdown could spin out of control, the government pursued its drive against crime and corruption by offering cash bonuses to police for the rearrest of criminals who had bribed their way out of punishment. In the end, it was Hun Sen himself, not the country's judicial system that took the credit for stemming crime on Cambodia's streets.

As negotiations between the Cambodian government and the UN over the format of a Khmer Rouge trial enter their final episode, the question is how much Hun Sen is willing to test the limits of his authority over the military and especially its former Khmer Rouge commanders in order to meet the international community's minimum requirements for accountability. The degree to which Hun Sen will have to test this limit depends of course on how much the international community is willing to compromise its own position. Throughout the negotiation process, each side has tried to appear steadfast in its position. Kofi Annan has maintained that the UN would only participate in a joint tribunal that is "international in nature" and that meets minimum standards of justice, while Hun Sen has said that he would go it alone if the UN did not accept a minor role.

Since December, negotiations between the Cambodian government and the UN over the details of the law by which to try the former Khmer Rouge leadership have continued with a sense of urgency. At each step of the process, the Cambodian government has attempted to dictate the terms of the negotiations by calling on the UN to respond to its various drafts on very short notice. On Monday, December 20, the Cambodian government sent the UN a draft saying it would not wait beyond Friday, December 24, for a response before sending it to the National Assembly for ratification. On December 23, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan responded to the draft law in a letter to the Cambodian government. After receiving the UN response, Sok An announced that the UN indicated that it would choose the second of the three options that Hun Sen had outlined at the September meeting in New York. That option provided a mechanism for the UN to provide a legal team to assist Cambodian lawyers in drafting necessary legislation without taking part in the proceedings themselves. The next day, the Cambodian government amended the draft so that Cambodia would pay for its own judges, prosecutors and staff members, while the UN would sponsor its own staff. Previously, all trial expenses were to be paid by the UN. On December 28, a second draft of the law was sent to the UN Secretariat requesting once again a quick response. The following week, on January 6, 2000, hours before the Cambodian cabinet was due to vote on the draft law, Hans Corell, the UN legal counsel, gave the UN's response to the draft to the Cambodian ambassador in New York. The response stated generally that the UN still had concerns about the draft law and invited the Cambodian government to send a representative to New York as early as possible.

Despite US urgings "to show flexibility," the Cambodian cabinet approved the draft law calling it "final". Hun Sen rejected the UN offer to send representatives to New York, but said he was willing to hold discussions in Phnom Penh. On January 11, the process took another turn following the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to Cambodia. During his visit, Prime Minister Obuchi expressed support for Cambodia's various reforms and pledged $18 million in aid. In turn, Hun Sen presented the prime minister with a "gift", announcing that he would revise the draft law to allow for the participation of foreign judges in the trial, and on January 14, the Cambodian cabinet formally amended the "final" draft. On January 18, the UN received an official translation of the revised draft law. The next day, Sok An submitted the draft law to Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the president of the National Assembly. Although the assembly was in recess, it was due to hold a special session to debate the bill on February 21, by which time the UN was expected to respond to the newly revised draft. Like many of the previous timelines, that one was not kept, and a special session was not convened. Indeed, the Cambodian government has very handily made it appear that it is trying to move the trial process forward despite UN inaction. From the outset of negotiations, the Cambodian government has taken control of the process. It has independently drafted the trial law then presented the drafts to the UN with a minimal amount of time to respond. The strategy has forced the UN to react to the demands of the Cambodian government and, consequently, to appear to be on the defensive in ongoing negotiations. On January 29, Prince Ranariddh complained that the UN had yet to respond to the revised draft it had sent only 11 days earlier and that he would send the UN a letter urging its involvement in a trial. "They failed to respond to us," Ranariddh was quoted as saying. "What can we do? Whether they are pleased or not with the draft, they should make their opinion known."

STICKING POINTS: Contrary to appearances, however, throughout the ongoing negotiations with the UN, the Cambodian government has significantly revised its position in response to UN demands. Yet, some significant differences remain unresolved. One of the most critical points is whether the Cambodian and foreign prosecutors will be able to indict suspects independently. While Hun Sen claims that independent prosecutors would result in chaos, the UN argues that co-prosecutors working together would paralyse the process and allow some Khmer Rouge leaders to go uncharged. On February 8, Mr Kofi Annan responded to the latest draft law in a letter to Hun Sen. The letter stated that there were four key issues that stood in the way of UN involvement in a trial. In addition to the status of the foreign prosecutor, there are the issues of apprehension of suspects; amnesty; and the number of foreign judges. Hun Sen's initial response to Annan's reply was that it was unfair to Cambodia. The UN's continued distrust of Cambodia's judicial institutions did not take into account the reforms that had been made. However, both leaders struck a much more optimistic tone the following week at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) in Bangkok, where Hun Sen and Annan met on the sidelines of the meeting. Last Wednesday, a UN team led by legal counsel Hans Corell left Phnom Penh with no agreement after a new round of talks. At this point, one still wonders who has more to lose from the absence of international participation in the trial and to what extent concern for the victims of the crimes of the Khmer Rouge period play into the decision.

* Article courtesy of Bangkok Post. Author George Chigas is Associate Director of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University.

Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 2000

 

Pol Pot's henchmen enjoy mixed fortunes under national reconciliation

PHNOM PENH, April 11, 2000 (AFP)

A sombre scene from Tuol Sleng Prison captured by Clive Metson. A box contains skulls and bones of some of the Khmer Rouge victims.Blamed for the deaths of close to two million Cambodians after they seized power 25 years ago, Pol Pot's surviving henchmen have so far evaded trial - and enjoy mixed fortunes under Premier Hun Sen's pledge to deliver "national reconciliation." Following are short biographies of the ex-rebels human rights activists hope to see facing a long-awaited genocide trial, details of which are still being hotly debated between the Cambodian government and the United Nations.

NUON CHEA: The shadowy "Brother Number Two" to Pol Pot, ideological guru Nuon Chea is thought to have played a leading role in many of the guerrillas' bloody purges. Born in 1927, Nuon Chea studied at Thammasat University in Bangkok in the 1940s and also worked part-time for the Thai Foreign Ministry. He returned home to become one of the founders of the Khmer Rouge. In December 1998 he defected to the government. Now in his early 70s, he lives hidden in peaceful retirement in the former rebel base of Pailin close to the Thai border, and is reported to be be in rapidly declining health.

IENG SARY: Former Khmer Rouge number-three and extrovert foreign minister, Ieng Sary's 1996 defection to the government signalled the beginning of the end for the rebels. He has denied any involvement in the killings, instead promoting himself as an Oscar Schindler-type figure by claiming he worked to save innocent lives. Born in 1929, Ieng Sary's academic prowess led him to Paris where he cemented political ties with his brother-in-law Pol Pot. He worked at the heart of the Khmer Rouge until internal disputes over timber and gem mining revenue led to his 1996 split. Now a close ally of Premier Hun Sen, he is reported to be suffering from heart problems and frequently leaves his Phnom Penh home for medical treatment in Thailand. He remains with his wife Ieng Thirith, who served as Khmer Rouge social affairs minister and who remains one of the most vigorous defenders of the Pol Pot regime.

TA MOK: The feared one-legged Khmer Rouge chief of staff - dubbed "The Butcher" for his unflinching ruthlessness - was arrested in March last year as the last rogue rebel leader. He is now awaiting trial in a Phnom Penh military jail. A noted hardliner, Mok was the only one of the top Khmer Rouge leadership not to have been educated abroad. But he went on to serve in Pol Pot's inner cadre, befor he deposed Pol Pot ahead of the former supremo's death in April 1998.

KHIEU SAMPHAN: 69-year-old Khieu Samphan is best known as the rebel's "public face." The more sprightly of Pol Pot's surviving henchmen, he defected to the government with Nuon Chea in 1998, and is also enjoying a peaceful life in Pailin. Khieu Samphan's academic excellence took him to the University of Paris in the 1950s earning a doctoral thesis on a return to agrarianism often described as the blueprint for the Khmer Rouge evacuation of urban dwellers from the cities. As an active campaigner against corruption in the 1960s, Khieu Samphan remains respected in some circles, and genocide researchers say they have little evidence against him. After his defection he repeatedly said "sorry" for the genocide.

DUCH: Born Kang Kek Ieu, former mathematics teacher Duch was Pol Pot's internal security chief and oversaw close to 20,000 executions of suspected opponents at his "S-21" torture center in Phnom Penh. Last year he was uncovered living in the west of the country as a born-again Christian. He is now awaiting trial in the same Phnom Penh prison as Ta Mok.

KE PAUK: As Ta Mok's deputy, Ke Pauk has been implicated in some of the biggest mass killings of the Khmer Rouge rule. But his defection to the government in 1998 helped oust the rebels from their last bastion of Anlong Veng, and has earned him a peaceful life as a content 66-year-old gentleman farmer near the northwestern tourist town of Siem Reap. The murderous career of Pol Pot ended with his death in April 1998, at what was thought to be the age of 72. Pol Pot's first wife Khieu Ponnary, who also served in his inner circle during the "Killing Fields" regime, allegedly went insane. She now lives with relatives in Phnom Penh.

The Trial of the Khmer Rouge: The role of the Tuol Sleng and Santebal archives

by George Chigas

Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader, pictured in his final days before his death.The Cambodian government has recently announced that a trial of the Khmer Rouge leadership may take place as early as the spring of 2000. It remains to be seen, however, to what extent the international community will participate in the proceedings. A stalemate over the composition of the tribunal may have been broken in October when a United States proposal received the support of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to the U.S. plan, the trial would take place within the Cambodian judicial system and would involve a panel of five judges: three Cambodian judges and two from the international community. Any verdict would require the agreement of four of the five judges. As such, the plan would accommodate the Cambodian government's demand for sovereignty while enabling the international community to promote international standards of justice. The Cambodian government has yet to formally commit to the proposal, however, and the next phase of the process will hinge on the forthcoming recommendations of the government's legal team charged with drafting a new tribunal plan.

If the trial is eventually convened, the case against the Khmer Rouge leadership will certainly involve three forms of evidence: live testimony; forensic evidence, including the mapping of burial sites; and Khmer Rouge documents. At the top of the list of important Khmer Rouge documents are two known caches. The first is the archive of Tuol Sleng prison, the main Khmer Rouge torture and interrogation center. The second is the archive of the Khmer Rouge secret national security force, the Santebal, which oversaw repression and surveillance throughout Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Both of these archives are central to any assessment of the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge leadership, particularly Kang Kech Iev, alias Duch, the chief of Tuol Sleng, as well as Mok, the notorious military commander, both of whom are in custody and awaiting trial in Phnom Penh. Other living Khmer Rouge leaders include: Nuon Chea, former President of Democratic Kampuchea's (DK) People's Representative Assembly; Ieng Sary, former DK Deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs; Ke Pauk, former Secretary of the Northern Zone of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK); and Khieu Samphan, former President of the DK State Presidium.

The purpose of this paper is to make some general observations about the Tuol Sleng and Santebal archives, first in terms of the history of the collections themselves, and second in terms of their importance to historiographical and legal accountings of the DK period. These two aspects of the documents are in fact interrelated. That is, understanding the history of the documents themselves, particularly their chain of custody, i.e., who possessed the documents where and when, is important to establishing their credibility as sources of historical information and legal evidence.

The DK Security Force

An examination of the Tuol Sleng and Santebal archives requires a brief description of the Santebal security force itself, which produced the collections. The Santebal, a Khmer term meaning "keeper of the peace" was part of the Khmer Rouge organizational structure well before April 17, 1975, when it took power from the U.S.-backed Lon Nol government. During this time, the Khmer Rouge, headed by Pol Pot (pictured above), organized the country into regional zones. These included: the Eastern, the Northeast, the Northern, the Northwest and the Southwest zones.

As early as 1971, the Khmer Rouge established the Special Zone outside of Phnom Penh under the direction of Vorn Vet and Son Sen. Son Sen, later the DK Deputy Prime Minister for Defense, was also in charge of the Santebal, and in that capacity he appointed Duch to run its security apparatus. When the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, Duch moved his headquarters to Phnom Penh and reported directly to Son Sen. At that time, a small chapel in the capital was used to incarcerate the regime's prisoners, who totaled fewer than two hundred. In May 1976, Duch moved his headquarters to its final location, a former high school known as Tuol Sleng, which could hold up to 1,500 prisoners. It was at Tuol Sleng that the major purges of Khmer Rouge cadres took place and thousands of prisoners were tortured and killed.

From the archives it appears that Son Sen's major responsibilities as head of the Santebal were twofold. Firstly, he supervised Duch and oversaw the operations of the security apparatus, including the arrest, interrogation and execution of suspects. Documents sent to Son Sen from Duch constitute a large part of the Santebal archive. As the overseer of the regime's system of repression, Son Sen would have also reported to Pol Pot and responded to orders to arrest individuals throughout the country. There is, for example, a document from Pol Pot that tells Son Sen "to follow up" on suspects of the revolution.

Secondly, Son Sen was involved with the surveillance of Party members throughout the country. In this capacity, he would have worked with Nuon Chea, who was in charge of recording the biographies of Khmer Rouge cadre. More than half of the Santebal archive consists of these biographies, presumably sent from Nuon Chea to Son Sen for processing. On January 7, 1979, when the Vietnamese forces drove out the Khmer Rouge, Duch was one of the last to leave Phnom Penh. Before making his escape, he oversaw the execution of remaining prisoners and attempted to destroy the documents at Tuol Sleng. Nonetheless, he left over 100,000 pages behind that document the activities of his security apparatus since 1974. In addition, another 100,000 pages of Santebal documents were left behind at a house, presumably occupied by Son Sen.

The "Archives"

Before discussing the contents of the Tuol Sleng and Santebal archives and their importance to historiographical and legal studies, it is important to clarify the difference between the two collections. As it happens, the categorization of the documents produced by the Khmer Rouge security force into these two groups is somewhat arbitrary. Technically, the corpus of Santebal documents would include the documents found at Tuol Sleng, as well as those found at other locations, primarily Son Sen's residence in Phnom Penh. Their designation as separate archives is more a result of the physical location of the documents during and after the DK period than it is an organizational distinction made by the Khmer Rouge.

The designation of the two archives is also a function of the different echelons of the Khmer Rouge leadership involved. While the documents in the Tuol Sleng archive were produced and circulated among lower ranking cadres and administrators within the apparatus of the secret security force, documents in the Santebal archive circulated among the top echelon of the Khmer Rouge leadership, including Son Sen, Nuon Chea and Pol Pot among others.

Since the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in January 1979, the archives have changed ownership at least three times. They were first obtained by the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), which governed the country until the United Nations-sponsored elections in 1993. It was during the PRK period that the files in the Santebal archive were given the cataloging codes that they retain to the present. Also during this time Tuol Sleng was transformed into a historical museum and part of the archive was microfilmed by Cornell University.

After the 1993 elections, the documents were kept by the coalition government headed by Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh. In 1995, a large part of the Tuol Sleng archive was made available to the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) for analysis and inclusion into the databases of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University (CGP). Then, in March 1996, the DC-Cam obtained the Santebal archive. Since its discovery, information from the Santebal archive has been added to the biographical and bibliographical databases on the website of the CGP as part of a collaborative effort between the CGP, the DC-Cam, and the University of New South Wales in Australia. The tens of thousands of records compiled in these databases enable all scholars and individuals with access to the internet to conduct research on individuals, documents and events from the DK period. In addition, the entire Santebal archive has been microfilmed and is available at the Yale University library. Some of these documents can be viewed directly on the CGP website.

The Tuol Sleng Archive

Turning to the contents of the archives, the information contained in the Tuol Sleng archive has been instrumental to scholars and individuals studying the events that resulted in the death of 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. The archive is composed of the forced confessions of prisoners, as well as various forms filled out by the prison staff that record the names of prisoners and details concerning their torture and execution. It also includes short biographies and photographs of the prison staff themselves. From this biographical information, the CGP was able to produce an organizational chart of the Tuol Sleng prison staff.

What follows are examples of how documents from the Tuol Sleng archive, in combination with other sources, provide a historical record of the torture and execution of prisoners at Tuol Sleng from 1976 to 1978. From the second half of 1976, the number of people who were arrested and brought to Tuol Sleng increased dramatically as the Khmer Rouge leadership attempted to rid the country of any elements that it believed opposed its socialist revolution. A Khmer Rouge document attributed to Pol Pot dated December 20, 1976, that is not part of the Tuol Sleng archive, pronounces the need "to expel treacherous elements that pose problems to the Party and to our revolution." Using characteristic Khmer Rouge euphemisms, the document describes suspected traitors as microbes and calls for their extermination with terms such as "smash" and "sweep aside." The document indicates that the purging of suspected enemies of the revolution had already begun and that there was a clear directive from the Khmer Rouge leadership for them to continue. The document states: "If we wait any longer, the microbes can do real damage." And: "[T]he string of traitors that we smashed recently had been organized secretly during the people's revolution and the democratic revolution." Finally: "If we don't sweep aside treacherous elements and allow them to expand, they will place obstacles in the path of the socialist revolution."

As a testament of the above policy, a Tuol Sleng document entitled "List of the Names of Prisoners Who Entered in the Year 1976" indicates that the security forces had been directed by the Party Center to continue the purging of suspected traitors. The document provides the names of 1,622 persons who were taken to Tuol Sleng in 1976. Among them were 150 members of the regime's own security force; by comparison, a total of 154 prisoners had been incarcerated the previous year. Another Tuol Sleng document, dated September 26, 1976, states that the prison had "received instructions from the Organization to use torture." The document describes how a prisoner was given "about 20 whippings with fine rattan," and in the afternoon, "20-30 whippings with electrical wire." The same document describes how Duch authorized the use of "both hot and cold techniques" on a prisoner in order to extract his confession. Torture was used to extract the confessions of Party members as well. A document dated September 27th, 1976, records the arrest of Keo Meas, a high ranking CPK official. A Tuol Sleng interrogator named Pon, whose name appears repeatedly in the archive, states that "after threatening him a couple of times, I told him to pull off his shirt and put the arm shackles on him. Prevented him from sleep and put him with the mosquitoes." Among the Khmer Rouge cadres arrested during this time was the Minister of Information, Hu Nim. Before Hu Nim's death, the Tuol Sleng interrogator Pon was able to extract seven confessions from him under torture. To one of these Pon had added a note to Duch stating "... we whipped him four of five times to break his stand, before taking him to be stuffed with water." Hu Nim's confession was found after 1979. The document is over 200 pages and was written during the period between his arrest on April 10, 1977 and his execution on July 6, 1977, the same day 126 other prisoners were executed.

A Tuol Sleng document entitled "List of Names of Prisoners Who Entered from 17 February 1977 to 17 April 1977" (the second anniversary of the Khmer Rouge victory over the Lon Nol regime) gives the names of 1,566 prisoners, recording also their alias, gender, position, organizational unit, date of entry, and a final column noting whether the prisoner had been "smashed." The number of prisoners recorded in this document equals approximately to the total number of people who had been imprisoned in the previous year. The document states that 633 of these had already been "smashed." The nine hundred or so remaining prisoners were presumably killed after the 17th. The same document also notes the execution of suspected cadres during that time. On April 4, 1977, for example, the document indicates that 110 troops belonging to a Northern division were smashed. A later document indicates that the executions increased following the return of Pol Pot from a trip to China in late September 1977. The document states that an unprecedented 418 prisoners were executed on a single day in October. On other days that month, the document records the execution of 179 prisoners, 88 prisoners, and 148 prisoners respectively. A letter from Son Sen to Duch during that month concerning the need to conserve paper when extracting confessions indicates that the Khmer Rouge leadership closely followed the Santebal's activities.

In 1978, the Party Center focused its attention on the Northern and Eastern Zones. The Eastern Zone, under the command of So Phim, was associated with Vietnam with whom Cambodia was at war, and the people who lived in that zone were suspected of supporting the Vietnamese army. A Tuol Sleng document entitled "Daily List of Prisoners Held 20 April 1978" shows that there were at least 437 cadres from the Eastern Zone being held prisoner at Tuol Sleng at that time. This was almost ten times more than the number of cadres from any other zone. Another document entitled "List of Names of Prisoners Who Entered in May 1978" gives the names of ninety-two high-ranking cadres from the Eastern Zone who were brought to Tuol Sleng. Many of these prisoners were immediately executed. As Eastern Zone forces mounted an armed rebellion against the Party Center's forces, the Eastern Zone commander, So Phim, was still reluctant to believe that Pol Pot had targeted his zone. He went to Phnom Penh to speak with the Center but was attacked along the way. He committed suicide on June 3rd after taking refuge in a temple west of the capital city.

This purge was the Center's most deadly wave of killings. The purge was not limited to high-ranking cadres but included women and children as well. A Tuol Sleng document from June 1978 shows that the number of prisoners who had entered Tuol Sleng since January of that year had reached 5,675. This was close to the total amount for the entire previous year. Another Tuol Sleng document with the heading "3rd division units: short biographies of those associated with the tendency" lists 17 family members of soldiers from the 3rd division of the Eastern Zone, nine of whom were under sixteen years old. They were targeted by the Santebal because their parents or husbands had been suspected of treason. Duch had signed the document and added a note instructing his wardens: "Kill them all."

The Santebal Archive

The Santebal archive is considered the most valuable find of any set of documents from the DK period. While the Tuol Sleng archive primarily concerns the torture and execution of prisoners in the capital, the Santebal documents record the regime's military and security activities throughout the country and may well connect individual top leaders to specific crimes. As mentioned above, the coding system used by the PRK to identify the individual documents of the Santebal archive is still used today. The government's coding system divided the Santebal archive into two groups. The first group was identified as the "BBKK" collection and consists of approximately 11,000 biographies of KR cadres, some of whom were later suspected of treason. The biographies were written in response to an eleven-page questionnaire that asked about the date and circumstances of the individual's recruitment into the Party, as well as potentially incriminating information about the individual's family members and their political history. (A translation of this questionnaire can be viewed on the CGP website.) The second group was identified by the code "BBKKH" and consists of over 800 files, primarily confessions, written communications between KR leaders and accounts of the "traitorous activities" of victims. These documents record the political violence against suspected enemies of the regime. This would include, for example, documents sent from Duch to Son Sen, many of which have margin notes directing copies to other high ranking leaders, such as Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Mok.

Khmer Rouge documents have been reviewed by a number of legal experts to assess their evidentiary value. A preliminary study of existing evidence was completed in 1995 for the United States Department of State after the passage of the 1994 Cambodian Genocide Justice Act. At the time of this study, however, the Santebal archive was not yet available. Drawing from experience gained from other tribunals for Bosnia and Rwanda, the study recommended mechanisms for the future gathering and evaluation of evidence. The 1995 study also underlined an important principle to guide future assessments of the archives for their evidentiary value. The study states: "It is highly advisable not to put the proverbial cart before the horse. That is, it is important to determine the purposes for the information and the forum in which it is to be used before investigators are tasked with developing evidence. ...Investigators will be most effective if investigators have... a thorough understanding of the elements of the relevant offenses."

In February 1999, an assessment of the archives by a United Nations panel of experts, entitled "Report of the Group of Experts for Cambodia Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 52/125" was completed. The report was produced in response to a June 1997 request by then-First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh and then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen "for the assistance of the United Nations and the International community in bringing to justice those persons responsible for the genocide and crimes against humanity during the rule of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979." While this report makes some specific assessments of the documents' evidentiary value, it was not intended to be an exhaustive evaluation of the archives. The report did conclude, however, that sufficient evidence exists to prosecute the Khmer Rouge leadership for serious crimes under Cambodian and international law.

Prior to the group of experts report, a study of the Santebal archive, along with other documents, was sponsored by DC-Cam. This study, completed in November 1998, used the same list of documents that was later provided to the U.N. group of experts. The study's main purpose was to identify specific documents with probative value in order to facilitate the experts' use of the archives. Because of time limitations, the 1998 study limited its scope to those documents pertaining to five living Khmer Rouge leaders: Nuon Chea, Mok, Ke Pauk, Ieng Sary and Duch. Most of the documents analyzed in the 1998 study were selected specifically for their relevance to crimes against humanity rather than genocide. The study states that while the documents could be used in charges of genocide with regard to the Vietnamese, Cham and Chinese minority populations, "the evidence does not indicate that a charge of genocide against the general Khmer population is a strong one." According to the 1998 study the documents do not indicate the Khmer Rouge leadership's intention to destroy the Khmer population as a group. With this in mind, it should be noted that the problem of the specific nature of the crimes, i.e., whether they constitute crimes against humanity or specifically genocide, remains unresolved. Genocide, as defined in the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention, consists of killing, serious assault, starvation, and measures aimed at children "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such." The UN convention does not include in its definition of genocide what has been called "politicide," which would describe many of the killings of the Khmer population. However, the inclusion of politicide in a Cambodian genocide law would not be without precedent. Politicide was included, for example, in the Ethiopian constitution to bring charges of genocide against the leaders of the Dergue.

The definition of crimes against humanity, on the other hand, involves mass or systematic killing against a protected group, including political groupsthe . The 1998 study concludes that the confessions, meetings and other memos included in Santebal archive provide evidence for crimes against humanity against the Khmer population by the top leaders in question, particularly Duch, Nuon Chea and other top leaders who received documents detailing acts of torture and extermination. The study also mentions "the doctrine of superior authority" by which leaders are liable for the actions of their subordinates. According to this doctrine, the Khmer Rouge leadership can be held accountable for crimes in which they were not directly involved. For this reason, "any documents that indicate members holding certain positions of authority are relevant insofar as they prove de jure authority." These types of documents would include standing committee minutes, communications, etc., which indicate members' ranks and responsibilities and help to confirm the chain of command necessary for establishing legal accountability. According to the report, the existence of these documents would then shift the burden of proof to the accused to show they were not aware of the reports of torture and extermination. This conclusion applies particularly to Ieng Sary, for example, who attended meetings with Son Sen, who in turn regularly received the Tuol Sleng confessions from Duch. It would also implicate Khieu Samphan, whose presence at important CPK Standing Committee meetings is documented in at least 12 of 15 of its meeting minutes.

The 1998 study provides a number of examples from Santebal documents giving this kind of information. The confession of a Tuol Sleng prisoner named Tiv Mei, included in the category of Santebal documents identified with the code BBKKH, has a note from Duch to Nuon Chea dated November 1977. In his confession, the prisoner, who was from the Northern Zone, wrote: "In my village, Angkar [the Organization] has swept away [killed] all people including military police, and even low-ranking soldiers and police officers." Another Santebal document used in the 1998 report was the confession of Tuol Sleng prisoner Pech Chay, a former ice factory worker. The document is cataloged in the BBKKH group, and handwriting on the cover states that two copies were sent to Nuon Chea. A note dated October 23, 1977, by Chay's Tuol Sleng interrogators, Oeun, Seng and Khon, reads: "First, I asked about his previous background. ...Then, I asked about his working for Chinese for wages. ...And then when I tortured him, he conceded speaking about CIA spies." The original front page of the confession indicates that two copies of the confession had been "sent to Brother Nuon."

The Tuol Sleng and Santebal archives will be given greater scrutiny as a trial becomes more imminent. In-depth studies of the documents are currently being conducted by Cambodia scholars such as David Chandler and Steve Heder. These and other analyses of the DK archives will play a vital role in assisting legal experts to make those responsible for the death of 1.7 million people accountable for their actions

George Chigas is the Associate Director of the Cambodian Genocide Program at Yale University. He has recently completed an English translation of the Cambodian verse novel, The Story of Tum Teav. (i


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