By Huy Vannak
Radio Free Asia
Translated by Khmerization
Madame Ieng Thirith is the only female ex-Khmer Rouge leaders who is being detained on charges of crimes against humanity. She will appear at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal on the 21st of May for the appeal hearing on her detention by the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, after she was detained for the past six months.
Madame Ieng Thirith was arrested with her husband, Mr. Ieng Sary, ex-minister of foreign affairs during the Khmer Rouge regime, at her house in Phnom Penh on the 14th of November 2007.
Madame Ieng Thirith, now aged 75, used to be Minister of Social Affairs during the Khmer Rouge regime. Immediately after her arrest, she asked to be allowed to live outside of the detention due to the pretext that she is already old, is suffering from various physical and mental illnesses.
And her defence lawyer, Phatt Pov Seang, also said that he is worried about Madame Ieng Thirith’s mental conditions. But Mr Reach Sambath, a spokesperson for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, said that doctors did not find anything unusual about her health as was raised by her lawyer.
Mr Reach Sambath said: “We knew that her lawyers have told the press on many occasions in relations to Madame Ieng Thirith’s health and she had been taken to the hospital on many occasions as well. Doctors at Calmette Hospital examined her and did not find anything unusual about her health, so we will proceed with her bail hearing as usual on the 21st of May. And in relations to the outcomes of her appeal, it is up to the five presiding judges of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal to decide.”
At the end of April, her lawyer, Mr Phatt Pov Seang, had successfully petitioned the court to let her have a conjugal visit to and from her husband, Mr. Ieng Sary, once a week.
Mr Reach Sambath said that this is a privilege granted by the court in order to boost her mental state in order for her to be strong enough to face the court. He said: “But after each visit both of them will have to return to their respective detention cell. The court has also allowed their family to visit them on many occasions. We believe that they both have special privileges far better other detainees like Duch, for example, who doesn’t have many visits from the relatives. We believe that this is an incentive which will boost their mental strength to face the court.”
According to the documents from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, Madame Ieng Thirith was born in 1932 in Battambang province to a well to do family. Her birth name was Khieu Thirith and her revolutionary name was Phea or Hong.
Madame Ieng Thirith married Ieng Sary in the 1950s when they were both students in Paris when Madame Ieng Thirith received a scholarship to study English literature there.
Other than being a minister in the Khmer Rouge regime, Madame Ieng Thirith also has a blood relation with the top Khmer Rouge leadership. Her sister, Madame Khieu Ponnary, was married to Pol Pot. Madame Ieng Thirith has one son, Mr. Ieng Vuth, who is now Deputy Governor of Pailin.
According to the court’s documents, she was Minister of Social Affairs of the Khmer Rouge regime and was also in charge of the Ministry of Health. She had a contributory role in the implementation of the Khmer Rouge’s policies, including the forced evacuations, massacres, detentions and genocide. But she denied the charges as ‘completely false’.
Madame Ieng Thirith was arrested two months after the arrest of Nuon Chea, who was the Chairman of the National Assembly of the Khmer Rouge regime. She told the court that she has no relations with Nuon Chea. She added that she detested Nuon Chea and said that Nuon Chea is not a good person.
Meanwhile, Madame Ieng Thirith has asked to be allowed to stay outside of the detention and to live under the police guard. She has told the investigating judge that she will not escape anywhere as her passport has been confiscated and that no other UN-member country will provide her the asylum.
Despite her assurance, the prosecuting lawyer, Hong Kim Sourn, requested the court to continue to detain her in order to ensure the legality of the investigations and to protect to the witnesses.
Mr. Hong Kim Sourn said: “Because in the areas where she used to live (ex-Khmer Rouge zones), she has relatives and friends who are now holding powers, so they can protect or assist her to escape or can use their influences to intimidate witnesses who knew what happened under the Khmer Rouge regime. That’s the reasons we support the continuation of the detention until the investigations are completed.”
In her defence team, Madame Ieng Thirith has chosen a Khmer lawyer, Mr. Phatt Pov Seang, and a foreign lawyer, Miss Diana Ellis, who is a high profile lawyer who had defended alleged war criminals in the International Criminal Court on Rwanda.
Mr Ky Tek, president of the Cambodian Bar Association, said that Miss Diana Ellis had been sworn in as Madame Ieng Thirith’s lawyer on the 20th of May. He said: “She had to swear in front of the Appeal Court first before she can practise (in Cambodia). We just want to make sure that all foreign lawyers uphold their professionalism, uphold the laws and must have true allegiance to their clients and defend them to the best of their ability.”
It must be noted that, past detention appeals by other detainees like Kaing Kek Iev (Duch), Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have all been rejected by the court. //