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On Trial, Duch Now More Defensive: Observer

As his tribunal hearing continues, Duch has become more defensive than he was at the outset, a leading rights advocate and tribunal observer said Monday.

In the beginning of his trial at the UN-backed court, Duch was apologetic, but in recent days, he has begun to defend himself as a victim of the regime’s leadership, said Thun Saray, head of the rights group Adhoc.

“In the beginning, Duch seemed to honestly admit his big mistakes, but later he has tended to be defensive when it came to torturing and killings, [with him] saying he just followed an order from the top,” Thun Saray said, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is the first to face an atrocity crimes trial at the tribunal. He has admitted to ordering torture and execution of thousands of Cambodians, but he has not admitted to undertaking acts by his own hand.

With his trial underway, the tribunal has faced continued allegations of corruption and mismanagement, but Thun Saray said the tribunal was operating at international standards.

“There is different way from Duch’s trial compared to those of Cambodian local court hearings,” he said. “The tribunal can be a good example for our judicial reform.”

However, callers from Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces expressed disbelief that the trial could bring real benefit to Cambodia with its limited scope and only five former leaders in detention.

Some said that countries involved in the wars that brought the Khmer Rouge to power should be indicted.

“When the Khmer Rouge forces were fighting the US-backed Lon Nol regime, I saw Vietnamese troops fighting alongside the Khmer Rouge soldiers until their victory and the start of the killings,” said one caller from Banteay Meanchey, named Thany. “I am sorry that they are now not indicted.”