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Mixed Feelings on Nuon Chea’s Claims of Responsibility at Tribunal

Nuon Chea, Brother No 2 of Khmer Rouge, expressed remorse at ECCC over what had happened in his regime, May 30, 2013.
Reactions varied Friday from Khmer Rouge victims and Cambodian politicians, a day after jailed regime leader Nuon Chea stood before the UN-backed tribunal and admitted responsibility for the regime’s atrocities.

Some victims thought he had not said enough, while others saw it as an admission to the killings that took place under the regime.

Nuon Chea’s claim of responsibility was a first among top-tier leaders of the regime, who have typically said they were unaware of the atrocities taking place inside the regime.

“That is what I wished him to say, the truth,” said Sum Rithy, who survived two years in a Khmer Rouge prison camp in Siem Reap province. “But what he said is not enough.”

Nuon Chea’s statement to the court, during a week in which victims of the Khmer Rouge have been giving their own testimony, was that he was responsible “for what happened” under the Khmer Rouge and “for the destruction and damages of my nation.” Nuon Chea did not say he was behind the mass killings of the regime.

But for Bou Meng, one of few survivors of the Tuol Sleng torture center in Phnom Penh, his admission of responsibility should link him to the deaths. “If he recognized responsibility, it meant he was involved in the killings,” Bou Meng said.

For Yim Sovann, an opposition lawmaker and spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Nuon Chea’s statement to the court was a “good model” for Cambodian leaders. “If the leaders committed a crime, the must be responsible for it in front of Cambodian citizens,” he said.

Tit Sothea, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, which oversees the tribunal for the Cambodian side of the tribunal, said the court judges will have to interpret the statement. He recommended “waiting for the verdict from the court.”