PHNOM PENH // The No 2 leader of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime told a court he and his comrades were not "bad people", denying responsibility yesterday for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians during their rule in the 1970s.
Nuon Chea's defiant statements came at a UN-backed tribunal, which began questioning him and two other Khmer Rouge leaders in court for the first time since their trial began late last month.
Nuon Chea, the trusted deputy of the late Pol Pot, instead blamed the armed forces of neighbouring Vietnam for the atrocities.
This week the court is expected to focus on charges involving the forced movement of people and crimes against humanity. After the Khmer Rouge captured Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, they began moving an estimated 1 million people - even hospital patients - from the capital into the countryside in an effort to create a communist agrarian utopia.
After a court clerk read a background of the Khmer Rouge, Nuon Chea defended the notoriously brutal former movement.
"I don't want the next generation to misunderstand history. I don't want them to believe the Khmer Rouge are bad people, are criminal," Nuon Chea said. "Nothing is true about that."