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Khieu Samphan 'Fine' After Apparent Stroke, Family Claims

[Editor's note: Three hours before he suffered an apparent stroke Tuesday, Khieu Samphan gave a 20-minute phone interview to VOA Khmer. This is part one of a four-part series.]

For Part Two, Click Here.

One of the last surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge suspected under investigation by the tribunal was recovering at his Pailin home following an apparent stroke Tuesday evening, a member of the family told VOA Khmer.

Khieu Samphan, former nominal head of the regime, collapsed and was unconscious "for a while," a man who answered Khieu Samphan's phone and claimed to be his son told VOA Khmer.

"He has high blood pressure," the man said. "He was lying in the hammock at around 6 pm. Then he complained that he didn't feel well. He then tried to get up, but he collapsed. He had no feeling in half of his body. He lost total movement in half of his body."

"He is now in Pailin," the man said, "and he's fine now."

A neighbor told the Associated Press Khieu Samphan was speaking with difficulty and was hard to understand. Family and local doctors gathered at the house to attend to him, AP reported, citing Khieu Samphan's daughter, Khieu Rattana.

The apparent stroke came a day after the arrest of two top leaders, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, both of them charged Monday with atrocity crimes.

Khieu Samphan collapsed just hours after he gave a 20-minute interview to VOA Khmer over the phone.

The aging leader, believed to be 76, said Tuesday afternoon he was "not afraid," but ready to go to the courts willingly. The former prime minister of the regime said he had "reason" to appear in court, to explain how he defended Cambodia from takeover in the 1960s and 1970s.

"If the court summons me, I will go, and I don't need to be arrested," he said.

"I had no power," he said of his position at the head of a Democratic Kampuchea presidium, or executive committee. He was, he said, "just a symbol, a representative."

Khieu Samphan was attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kampuchea in 1971 and headed central headquarters in 1977. Two others in the presidium were "So Phim, first vice chairman, secretary of the Eastern region, [and] Ros Nhim, called Mou Sambath," he said Tuesday.

"I am not afraid" of being arrested, Khieu Samphan said. "I have never done anything wrong to the nation, the people. I have never sold the country or stolen from the country, not even one dime. I want to clarify about what I did from 1975 to 1979."

Media reports have said that as head of state he should have known what was happening, but Khieu Samphan said Tuesday every person had "discipline" and kept information to themselves.

"The discipline was clear, and all levels had to adopt this discipline," he said. "I do not mean that as head of state I did not have to respect the discipline… no. This was tied to me personally. I must not want to know, to hear, other people's business. Other people were tied to it too. They did not dare tell me anything. I stayed in one place, and did not go anywhere. I did not know."