KR Witness Denies Everything, in Shocking Development

Long Norin, today’s witness at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, suffered a lamentable amount of memory loss when it came to recalling his formerly close association with former Democratic Kampuchea Minister of Foreign Affairs Ieng Sary. Thankfully, journalist Nate Thayer has been kind enough to jog his memory.

The 73-year-old Norin, whose testimony began Wednesday afternoon, began this morning with the rather reluctant identification of a party biography Ieng Sary forced him to write, during his tenure at the Democratic Kampuchea foreign ministry.

Ieng Sary at the ECCC.

This long party bio, prepared because Sary had accused Norin of being “CIA” (along with, it seems, the entire DK Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff) – a favorite accusation of the Khmer Rouge.

These forced “biographies” often ran into the hundreds of pages. Writing such a biography was a careful exercise in admission and deception, telling just enough about one’s life and percieved mistakes to satiate the paranoia of the Khmer Rouge, while leaving out facts that might actually implicate the writer as an “enemy.”

Norin was one of the few whose biography seemed to pass muster with the top brass.

Unfortunately, just about everyone the witness mentioned in his biography, as the co-prosecution pointed out, was tortured and killed at the S-21 or “Tuol Sleng” prison – a fact Norin at least pretended to be unaware of.

Norin in his biography fingered his former schoolmate and “soccer buddy” Tach Chea as being “CIA,” referring to him as “the contemptible Tach Chea” in the text—though Norin attempted to convince the court that the Khmer “a” (translated as ‘contemptible’) was merely a term of endearment for an old friend.

I know I call my buddies “the contemptible” all the time, so I think he’s probably telling the truth.

Norin told the court “I knew Tach Chea was a CIA agent, because had contacts with embassies that have tendancies towards CIA agents” – in other words, the West.

Long Norin via video-link in court today.

How did Norin know this? Mr Chea apparantly acquired a film from a Western embassy to show the other students at the pedagogical college the two men attended.

Damning evidence indeed. Wonder what the movie was about.

Tach Chea, as the co-prosecution noted, was taken hostage by students and shot in 1974, along with the at-the-time education minister.

Tach Chea’s wife and four children were imprisoned and killed in the S-21 torture prison during or shortly after the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh – a fact Mr Norin was also unaware of, or simply didn’t care all that much about.

Norin’s biography, as read to the court, mirrored most party biographies:

“During my study, my life contacts were deeply dark. I was in contact with people who betrayed the country, or traitors. In addition, my living was not very clean. I used money to better myself. My sexual morality was not very clean. Thanks to the Angkha, I have embarked on the right way. I have built up myself with the instructions of Angkha.”

When asked why the Khmer Rouge was so concerned with sexual morality, Norin, as became typical, vacillated wildly.

ECCC Courtroom.

The co-prosecutor than asked Norin about his time working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the Khmer Rouge era—and about what happened to those staffers implicated by Sary or other top brass being “CIA or KGB.”

“Nothing noticeable happened,” Norin claimed.

A mere half hour or so later, he quickly went back on this statement, admitting that people did have a way of disappearing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for no immediately apparant reason.

“When the staff disappeared, initially, I knew they went to study,” Mr Norin said. “But then I realized no, they were not going to study, but they were arrested instead.”

Mr Norin alleged that he was told these unfortunates had gone off to study in socialist countries – but these vanished staffers were instead shipped off to torture prisons. It was an impunity that Norin, finally, admitted to fearing:

Initially, I thought to myself that those who went to study in socialist countries might be spared, but later, even those who went to socialist countries were arrested. Those who went to France were also arrested. (Relevant as Mr Norin received a college degree…in France)

As was just about ubiqutious in Khmer Rouge Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon denigrated into paranoia and fear:

“After staff began to disappear, staff began to talk around those people, and they talked about them going to study. Everyone got fearful when we talked about “going to study” (after staff began to disappear.)”

The co-prosecutor than moved into a description of Norin’s relationship with Mr Sary after the 1979 fall of the Khmer Rouge. Although Norin heartily denied even speaking with Mr Sary after that date to the court, reality tells a different tale, as amply proven by Nate Thayer.

Thayer’s post shows Norin was in fact Sary’s chief spokesman after his 1997 split with the Khmer Rouge – amply documented by photographs, interviews, and English-language documents written on the stationary of the Democratic National United Movement, helmed by Mr Sary himself.

Norin, for his part, only admitted to being ‘secretary general” of the DNUM in 1994- although he denied that the party “ever had any meetings.”

Questioning regarding how, exactly, he became secretary general of a party helmed by a man he hadn’t spoken to since 1994 went un-answered.

According to Thayer, Norin also functioned as a primary voice of Sary’s DNUM radio station – a gift from current prime minister Hun Sen. This broadcast went out in 1996, read in Norin’s voice, on behalf of Sary:

“The war criminals are nobody else but Pol Pot and his handful of henchmen: Nuon Chea…who are the mass murderers of the people of Cambodia, committing until now enormous crimes against mankind. As such, they are sentenced to death.” (Everybody sentenced everybody else to death in the fallout of the Khmer Rouge leadership, it seems).

“The witness seems a bit reluctant to testify,” the co-prosecutor mused today, near the end of the morning session with Mr Norin.

Yes, he rather does, doesn’t he?

One wonders why Norin 1. bothered to testify at all, judging from the extremely close relationship he shared with Sary, as identicated by Mr Thayer’s post and 2. why he recanted many earlier statements he made to court co-investigators in 2007.

Did Sary’s still-powerful family come and rough him up? Did he decide he still had a soft squashy place in his heart for Sary after all?

An Old Farmer And the Khmer Rouge: A Civil Party at the Tribunal

Police cadets attending the ECCC Tuesday.

Another day, another live-tweeting session at the Khmer Rouge tribunals. The press room is violently air-conditioned and I am the only journalist willing to eat the “weird” Vietnamese sandwiches. Oh, yes, right, the court proceedings….

Nuon Chea has continued to beg off the dock, claiming health issues, which means that today featured one civil party and one witness. I took off after lunch – Clair Duffy was awesome enough to cover the afternoon Twitter shift.

The civil party who spoke in the morning session, a supposedly illiterate, old, and senile Ratanakiri farmer called Romam Yun delivered a startlingly eloquent account of the Khmer Rouge years, frequently using agriculture analogies to describe his experiences.

The  70-year-old Mr Yun, a member of a minority group, had moved from village to commune chief in the Khmer Rouge Northeastern zone, through some combination of coercion and initial belief in the ideology of Cambodia’s people’s revolution.

“I will not say my work with the Khmer Rouge was right or wrong, but the political line was not proper, not right,” Yun began, launching into a description of how everyone in his village was gathered to work, including the elderly and the very young.

“We were treated like pigs they could sell at any moment,” he said. “They [the Khmer Rouge] were like our parents – they were supposed to treat us well. Instead they treated us badly, they imprisoned us.”

Mr Yun recalled being summoned to a meeting and told that his “village was to be swept clean.”

Confused—his village had no grass—he asked what exactly was meant by “swept clean.”

“Sweeping cleans means getting rid of those who are not good, and leaving only the good,” he was told.

We all know what “sweeping clean” came to mean to the Khmer Rouge.

Romam Yun Wednesday describing the "Pol Pot" years

“If the village and commune were clean, there were no enemies. On the other hand, if they were not clean, there were enemies in there,” he said.

Employed as a messenger, Mr Yun said he occasionally would deliver messages to a mysterious figure in the jungle, known only as “One.” Presumably this was Saloth Sar, alias Pol Pot.

Mr Yun impressed upon the court how much was at stake when it came to “good” work under the supposed people’s revolution. “When we could not do our work properly, we were accused of being enemies,” he said.

“If we could do it, we would be spared. Otherwise, we would be killed, because we were accused of being against the revolution,” Yun said. “The village was very quiet. It was understood that if they said anything wrong, they would be accused of being against the revolution.”

What happened to the villagers who couldn’t do their jobs?

“Sometimes they were taken out into the forest. They might have been killed in the forest, because they [the Khmer Rouge leaders] were mad we could not meet the plan… They would execute people if they did anything wrong, or went against the Angkha, and then they would be subject to execution.”

Yun also described the breakdown of the village social structure: “We did not know who was who..it was confusing. People did not know their own parents and siblings. A son would beat his father.”

According to Yun, forced marriages did not seem to be common in his village, but formal marriages as we think of them became a thing of the past. “People didn’t get married,” he said. “When people loved one another, they just lived together as partners without marriage, during Pol Pot time.”

Interestingly, Yun’s Ratanakiri village, populated by minority groups with their own religious beliefs, did not seem to suffer the same violent repression Theravada Buddhism did: “No one asked us to do anything with religious affairs..communities managed our own affairs when it came to religions.”

(The fidgeting feet of saffron clad monks could be seen behind him as he said this. Monks are a fixture at the Tribunal).

Over and over in his account, this old farmer likened the Khmer Rouge years to a bad crop, a bad tree, a bad planting season.

“When I first joined the revolution, we cultivated crops, and the plants were grown very well, and yields grew some. But it was fruitless. By analogy, the policy of that [the Khmer Rouge] was very good but it did not yield any good thing for people…by analogy, the tree trunk is very good, but it bears no fruit.”

“In the present day, we have good seeds. The seeds are growing well for the next generation. But at that time, educated people were killed. So we did not have anything.”

Another Tuesday at the War Tribunal, Nate Thayer on Landmines Being Kind of OK

Monks at the War Tribunal. Despite murdering thousands of them, Khmer Rouge defendents cite how much they like monks as much as humanly possible in the courtroom.

Live-tweeting the Khmer Rouge War Tribunal for the past few days and will probably continue until Thursday. Saying it’s been “fun” veers into the realm of the vastly inappropriate, but it has been informative.

I can easily summarize Nuon Chea’s opinion on his involvement in the genocide years thusly: It Was All Those Vietnamese Douchebags Fault.

This is all extra ironic because the Vietnamese party secretary is in Phnom Penh for something or another, and Vietnamese flags have been carefully erected in seemingly every possible spot in the city. And here Nuon Chea sits in the dock at the ECCC, spitting out anti-Vietnamese sentiment in an effort to appeal to popular opinion.

Everyone knows Cambodia is profoundly mistrustful of both Vietnam and Thailand of course, but Nuon Chea’s timing was….unfortunate. Than again, I doubt that he reads the news.

Nuon Chea, however, is willing to give the Vietnamese a pass when it comes to occupying Cambodian territory in one instance. See, Ieng Sary and Pol Pot hid in Vietnam after the government began seeking out known leftists.

But according to Nuon Chea, they weren’t hiding in Vietnam at all – they were hiding on Cambodian soil that had been occupied by the Vietnamese due to “American carpet bombing.” Handy excuse.

I suppose it’s all the American’s fault, after all.

Khieu Samphan, I imagine, heartily agrees.

As does Jacques Verges, who defended Carlos the Jackal and Klaus Barbie, among other luminaries. (I suspect Verges agrees with whoever is giving him a paycheck – and is probably a bit bummed that Samphan doesn’t seem to have a hot revolutionary girlfriend for him to steal).

Why Landmines Should Not Be Banned – Nate Thayer

Nate Thayer writes out a rather interesting argument for keeping landmines in the international war chest. Not sure if I agree, but points vis a vis “regulating legal stuff is easier” and “landmines are excellent deterrents” do make sense.

Ex-Khmer Rouge Leader Admits No Guilt on Third Day of Landmark Trial – Faster Times

Khieu Samphan (Photo from ECCC website)

The third day of the opening salvo of the Khmer Rouge War Tribunal in Cambodia saw Khieu Samphan, former Khmer Rouge head of state and leader of the state presidium, tell the court with great vehemence that he was not guilty for the war-crimes—that allegedly caused the deaths of 2.2 million—that the co-prosecution had heaped him with Monday and Tuesday. A full account of yesterday’s proceedings may be read here.

Samphan’s denial of culpability appears to be following in the dubious foot-steps of his co-defendants, former “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and former foreign foreign minister Ieng Sary, who have both passionately denied any culpability in the events of 35 years ago. Although Ieng Sary’s ill health and unwillingness to testify before the court prevented him from reading more than a paragraph of his own statement of innocence, Nuon Chea’s Tuesday rant against his supposed enemies bore considerable resemblance to Samphan’s Wednesday performance.

Read more at The Faster Times…