Phnom Penh: A top Khmer Rouge leader accused
the prosecution at his historic war crimes trial on Wednesday of
telling "fairytales", insisting that most Cambodian people had
supported the brutal regime.
Ex-head of state Khieu Samphan is on trial along with
two other defendants on charges of war crimes, crimes against
humanity and genocide over the deaths of up to two million
people during the Khmer Rouge`s 1975-79 reign of terror.
Prosecutors opening the long-awaited trial this week
have told the packed courtroom of the horrors inflicted in the
"Killing Fields" era, describing the defendants as "common
murderers of an entire generation of Cambodians".
Such accusations were rebuffed by 80-year-old Khieu
Samphan as he took the stand at the UN-backed tribunal in
"You seem to want everybody to listen to your
fairytales," he said, during his hour-long statement. "I have
the feeling that you really want my head on the block."
Khieu Samphan, "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea and
ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary all deny the charges against
them relating to the hardline communist regime.
Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998,
the Khmer Rouge emptied cities, abolished money and religion
and wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia`s population in a
bid to create an agrarian utopia.
Pol Pot`s right-hand man Nuon Chea on Tuesday also
rejected the allegations against him, claiming he had served
"the nation and the people" by defending Cambodia from
In a similar vein, Khieu Samphan said he was acting to
"defend my country" after a 1970 coup that installed a
US-friendly government led by Lon Nol.
"Regardless of whether you like or dislike it, the
majority of Cambodian people gave their support to us for our
opposition to the Lon Nol regime," he said.
The prosecution has said the defendants knew about and
participated in crimes such as forced evacuations, enslavement
at labour sites, the "smashing" of enemies and the genocide of
Cham Muslims and the Vietnamese.
But Khieu Samphan, the only accused to directly
respond to some of the examples of human suffering mentioned
by prosecutors, denied he knew what was going on at the time.
"Do you really think... that when I visited these
worksites alone or accompanied by the king (Norodom Sihanouk),
workers were being murdered in front of us with holes or
bullets in the back of their necks?"