Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Khieu Samphan, the former president of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, said he had no real authority.
Khieu Samphan, the former president of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime, said he had no real authority.

Khmer Rouge ex-leader denies having a key role in 'killing fields'

Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, said he was a figurehead leader who never joined key policy meetings in Cambodia's communist government in the 1970s.

PHNOM PENH // A Khmer Rouge leader accused a war crimes tribunal of wanting his "head on the block", and insisted he had no real authority during the regime's brutal rule of Cambodia in the 1970s.

Khieu Samphan, the former head of state, said he was a figurehead leader who never joined key policy meetings in the radical communist government, which is accused of orchestrating the country's "killing fields" and causing the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians.

In his rebuttal of prosecutors' opening remarks, Khieu Samphan accused the UN-backed tribunal of exaggerating the Khmer Rouge's wrongdoing with "fairy tales".

However, he also sought to justify the regime's rule in a historical context - as the highest surviving leader Nuon Chea did during comments to the panel on Tuesday - saying the movement sought to protect the country from French colonialists, the US and Vietnam.

"Today you may see it as a joke. However, I shall remind you that at that time, communism was the one movement that gave hope to millions of youth around the world. What I really wanted at that time, was the best possible experience for my country, for Cambodia," Khieu Samphan said.

The tribunal is seeking justice on behalf of an estimated quarter of Cambodia's population to have died from executions, starvation, disease and overwork when the Khmer Rouge held power in 1975-79.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National