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.
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.
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?