Saturday, December 17, 2011

No Buddhism ban: Nuon Chea

The Khmer Rouge did not “destroy” Buddhism, former Khmer Rouge Brother No 2 Nuon Chea testified yesterday, and did not ban the religion during the regime’s rule.

In the final day of evidence hearings in the case until next year, international deputy co-prosecutor Dale Lysak asked Nuon Chea why he paid respect to Buddhist monks at the tribunal but never in his speeches as a leader in the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

“Some people who accuse the Democratic Kampuchea [of destroying] the religion are wrong,” he said. “They don’t understand the real meaning of religion.”

Lysak later asked Nuon Chea whether the reason he had not paid respect to monks in his speeches as a regime leader was because the party “banned Buddhism and defrocked all the monks”.

“The party did not have any measure to ban Buddhism,” Nuon Chea said.

Defence teams objected to the prosecution’s questioning on the grounds that it was not relevant to the first segment of case 002. The objection was sustained by the Trial Chamber.

Despite being indicted for the crime against humanity of relig-ious persecution, Nuon Chea, co-accused ex-president Khieu Samphan and former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary will not stand trial for those charges or charges of genocide, torture or forced labour, among others, until a later, as yet unspecified, date.

The Trial Chamber elected to  hear only charges relating to the forced movement of the populations of Phnom Penh and other urban centres during the current trial, one of an indefinite number of “mini-trials” for Case 002.

“Khmer Rouge have destroyed the Buddhism and also not [just] Buddhism . . .  all religion in Cambodia, they want to destroy all,” 26-year-old monk An Vicheth said at the tribunal yesterday.

Yesterday’s hearing also saw the conclusion to the testimony of witness Long Norin, a former aide to Ieng Sary.

Long Norin, 73, repeated claims that he could not confirm or recall statements he made to court investigators in 2007 and details from during and after Khmer Rouge rule.

In response to questioning by Michiel Pestman, for Nuon Chea, about whether he felt “free to testify”, Long Norin said he was “not pressured by anybody” and denied he had been approached about his testimony since his interviews with court investigators in 2007.

Evidence in Case 002 will continue on January 10.