To the ire of the press, spectators, and lawyers in attendance, Nuon Chea did not take his place – although he was present in the courtroom.
Norin’s use of the Khmer “ah” or “the contemptible” has spawned a bit of a debate. Tell me, Khmer speakers: can “ah” be used in a friendly way? I agree with Nate Thayer’s take that context is key here – using “ah” in a party biography is much different than using it on a football pitch – but is “ah” something buddies would use with one another? That was Norin’s argument, anyway.
Monday is a Khmer holiday – Cambodia has MANY HOLIDAYS – so I’ll be back at the court Tuesday.
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.)”
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?
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).
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.
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.