Khmer Rouge ‘Brother Number Two’ Nuon Chea admits shared ‘responsibility’
Agence France-Presse in Phnom Penh
The Khmer Rouge’s former number two admitted for the first time on Thursday he shared responsibility for the actions of a regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people in the late 1970s.
“I am not trying to evade my responsibility,” Nuon Chea, 86, who has denied charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity, said during his trial at a UN-backed court in Phnom Penh.
“As a leader, I must take responsibility for the damage, the danger to my nation,” he said, expressing his “deepest condolences” to witnesses testifying at the tribunal who lost relatives under the regime.
At the same time Nuon Chea said that he was not aware of all of the Khmer Rouge’s actions in his role overseeing propaganda and education.
“As for the executive branch, I had no power whatsoever. So about what happened during the Khmer Rouge period – certain things I was aware of, but other things I was not aware of,” he added.
Nuon Chea, the most senior surviving leader of the “Killing Fields” era, is currently on trial alongside former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan, 81, who has also denied charges of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Khieu Samphan told the court on Thursday that he was not aware at the time of the “great suffering” of the Cambodian people during the Khmer Rouge’s rule.
He also expressed a “sincere apology” to the victims as he tried to distance himself from the regime’s actions.
Led by “Brother Number One” Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge from 1975-79 wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
Regime co-founder Ieng Sary died in March at the age of 87, escaping a court judgment over his role in the regime’s reign of terror.