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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khmer Rouge Chief Denies Role in Cambodian Purges




PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Arrested Khmer Rouge guerrilla chief Ta Mok has denied responsibility for Cambodia's "killing fields" of the 1970s, saying the slaughter was the responsibility of other leaders, including Pol Pot, a government official said Monday.


Military prosecutors questioned Ta Mok again Monday and legal officials said it might take two more days to file charges against him.


"Ta Mok told investigators he is innocent of genocide," Phnom Penh deputy governor Chea Sophara said.


"He said Pol Pot, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea were guilty and it was nothing to do with him," Chea Sophara said.


Supreme Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died last year. Top political officials Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea surrendered in December and were welcomed back to society. They have been allowed to live freely in a semi-autonomous former guerrilla zone in the west.


Ta Mok was arrested on northern Cambodia's border with Thailand on Saturday and whisked down to Phnom Penh where he has been kept under heavy guard in a military detention facility.


"He told investigators he was a low-ranking official, he was innocent, it was nothing to do with him. Then the interrogators and guards burst out laughing," Chea Sophara said, citing witnesses.


Cambodia has said it will put Ta Mok on trial instead of sending him to any international tribunal, ignoring the recommendation of a United Nations team of jurists who said 20 to 30 former Khmer Rouge members should be tried by an international tribunal on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.


Military court director Ney Thol said authorities had not yet decided on the specific charges or which court Ta Mok would be tried in but said it was likely to be a military court.


"The military prosecutor is working on the case. This is a big issue, we can't finish it in a day, we need two or three days more," Ney Thol said. "I believe the case will be tried in the military court."


The one-legged Ta Mok, known as "the butcher," earned his reputation for brutality during Khmer Rouge rule when, as commander of the southwest zone, his troops mounted bloody purges of suspected dissidents.


If he is prosecuted, Ta Mok will be the first Khmer Rouge member to appear in a court to answer for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people during their 1975-79 rule.