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Witness Describes US Role in Khmer Rouge Politics

Expert Ms. Elizabeth Becker, journalist and author, giving testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan on 9 February 2015. (Courtesy of ECCC/Nhet Sok Heng)

American journalist Elizabeth Becker continued her testimony at the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday, describing the United States’ role in inadvertently supporting the Khmer Rouge internationally, as part of the Cold War.

The Soviet Union supported Vietnam, who had become enemies of the regime, and so the US supported China, which in turn supported the Khmer Rouge, she said.

Becker, who was a former Washington Post correspondent and has written a book on post-war Cambodia, was responding to questions from US prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, as part of the atrocity crimes trial of former regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Becker told the court that the United States also played a role in the affairs of the Khmer Rouge, known officially as Democratic Kampuchea, after its ouster, supporting an alliance between the regime, the former king, Norodom Sihanouk, and other fighters against Vietnamese forces that had by then begun to occupy Cambodia.

That allowed the Khmer Rouge to become a political entity, which could keep its status representing Cambodia to the United Nations, she said.

Becker’s testimony is part of the second and final phase of a trial against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, who face charges of atrocity crimes, including genocide, for their leadership roles within the regime.

This phase of the trial is wide reaching, and will in part help many Cambodians understand the history and workings of the secretive regime.