Khieu Samphan was the nominal head of state of Democratic Kampuchea, the official name for the regime of the Khmer Rouge. In recent days, after tribunal prosecutors handed a confidential list of five suspects to investigating judges, Khieu Samphan, 76, has become increasingly outspoken. And even though he has not yet been named as a suspect, he has hired a lawyer.
He spoke to VOA Khmer by phone in an interview from Pailin Monday. Below is a transcript, translated from Khmer to English.
Q: Former Khmer Rouge leaders are being blamed for the "Killing Fields" regime. What was the meaning of the "Killing Fields" regime at the time?
A: I want to point out a document detailing a meeting of the Permanent Committee of the Khmer Communist Party on May 14, 1976, in which the team leader reported the results of talks on the border issue with Vietnam. Prior to the talks, Vietnam recognized the Brevier Line with Prince [Norodom] Sihanouk. But after the May 14, 1976, meeting, Vietnam refused to respect Cambodia's border and started an encroachment while talking about friendship and solidarity with Cambodia.
This was an ultimatum for the Democratic Kampuchea government, and fighting broke out between Cambodia and Vietnam. Pol Pot took a firm stand against Vietnam. Some Khmers who fought with Vietnam against the French were not very happy and accused the Khmer Rouge of provoking a war against a bigger and stronger foe.
The Khmer Rouge attacked Vietnamese villages, but only in defense of its land. [Former US State Department official] Kenneth Quinn reported that the "Chan Chakrei" forces were disguised as Khmer Liberation forces to fight the Khmer Rouge. The Vietnamese made the Khmer Rouge fight the Khmer Rouge.
I regret the failure to reach a Khmer reconciliation under the Paris Agreement because of foreign influence. Before the Paris Agreement , the Supreme National Council was the only source of authority, and it was good to have Prince Sihanouk as its president. At that time the three-party coalition was working well, for one decade. But there was an attempt to block the functioning of the SNC. The control was turned over to the UNTAC head, Mr. [Yasushi] Akashi. Instead of monitoring the withdrawal of foreign troops from Cambodia, UNTAC turned its focus on the elections, even when Akashi admitted that the atmosphere was not neutral for an election. At that time the Khmer Rouge decided not to participate in the election and was blamed for the genocide.
The Khmer Rouge had a duty to defend the country against Vietnamese encroachment, and if the Khmer Rouge had not fought then, Cambodia would have fallen into Vietnamese hands in 1970. There were some mistakes made, but in the name of saving the nation, not in the genocide of our own people.
Q: What was the Khmer Rouge's involvement in the genocide?
A: It's a very complex problem. You know nobody is trying to kill his own people, his own race. You know guerrilla warfare is a very difficult task. Trying to avoid B-52 bombs is not easy. I want to refer everyone to read Ben Kiernan's book, "The Pol Pot Regime," page 115. It's [about] the internal discussions of the Permanent Committee of the Cambodian Communist Party, of which I was not a member, but was invited to attend. In the middle of June, 1971, things began to happen the way Pol Pot predicted, as a policy of strangulation.
A number of countries were involved with the Khmer Rouge. Which countries were those?
I'm talking about Vietnam. There was a strategy of a python trying to strangle a chick. You go ahead and read the documents I told you about and ask Vietnam to respond; show the documents to the Vietnamese Embassy.
Q: Some of the current leaders in the Cambodian government may have been involved in the Democratic Kampuchea regime at that time. Do you know their background?
A: I'm sorry I cannot talk about this.