Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hiding to nothing

The chief interrogator, Mam Nay, a man with more blood on his hands, literally, than Comrade Duch, his former boss at S-21, made a very brief appearance in the witness box at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. Whilst defense lawyers pointed out that the witness might well incriminate himself whilst giving evidence, the prosecutor gave an assurance that Mam Nay (pictured, CNN) would not be prosecuted in the ECCC. However, that didn't negate a possible prosecution in a Cambodian court at a later date, so the judges adjourned prematurely so the witness could seek legal advice. Why this wasn't done beforehand is beyond me but is another example of delays and time wastage at the ECCC. The evidence collected by DC-Cam over the last decade suggests that Mam Nay will be a key witness in the case against the former S-21 chief Duch, but if he corroborates that evidence, then Mam Nay will be admitting to interrogation, torture and the death in custody of S-21 inmates. It's part of the bigger question that has been debated for decades, if you prosecute only the leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime then the underlings who followed orders and carried out the killings go free. In the case of Mam Nay, the documentary evidence found at S-21 details his role in the torture and killings, moreso than many killers in other locations. Essentially, he's on a hiding to nothing if he tells the truth. Mam Nay, now 76, was known by the alias Chan during his time as Duch's number 2 at S-21. He carried out interrogations of the senior cadre incarcerated at Tuol Sleng such as former KR minister Hu Nim, and according to Duch, also interrogated Western prisoners. Like Duch he had been a teacher in Kompong Thom province and imprisoned by the Sihanouk regime before he re-joined the KR in the early '70s and linked up again with Duch at S-21. In the late 1990s, after the defection of the Pailin-based KR to the government in 1996, Mam Nay became a policeman in Battambang province, though when Duch was arrested in 1999 he went underground, resurfacing in Pailin a few years later.
One witness who did complete her evidence yesterday was Nam Mon, an alleged survivor of two secret detention facilities run by Duch. She testified that she saw Duch beat two of her uncles to death, the first evidence presented to the trial that Duch killed someone with his own hands. As to be expected, Duch dismissed the evidence that Nam Mon had worked as a medic at S-21 as 'far from reality.'
Update: In his evidence today, Mam Nay claimed he never tortured anyone, and was just responsible for 'asking questions of lowly cadre and Vietnamese prisoners.' He's obviously decided to downplay his role at S-21 completely to save his own skin and is unlikely to say anything that will incriminate himself, and therefore much of what he says can be taken with a large pinch of salt. He's not on trial so I'm not sure whether prosecutors' will be allowed to submit evidence that disputes his version of events. He's the first of the S-21 perpetrator witnesses to give evidence though I wouldn't exactly call him a creditable and reliable witness, though some will say who can blame him as he seeks to avoid future prosecution or even revenge attacks.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a classic case of the flaw of court system anywhere. While its general purpose is to serve justice to the people. I feel it sometimes become a game. A tit for tat. It's like they don't care about who is actually bad in the perpetration of a crime but who they want to convict because sometimes they would do a plead bargaining behind closed door or even witness protection to the every people that were involved with the people they have a case against. The FBI and CIA does it all the time. They catch some criminals but don't prosecute them but in turn, turn them into witness or snitch for a bigger catch. I'm sure all other law enforcement authorities all over the world do the same. It's like a culture. That is why I have a hard time believing the so-called justice in court.

July 14, 2009 at 12:46 PM  
Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

In his evidence today (Tues) Mam Nay, who said he's 76, refuted that he was involved in torturing prisoners at S-21 or that he interrogated senior prisoners.
Instead he said that his main duty was to interrogate low-ranking KR soldiers who allegedly opposed the regime, as well as Vietnamese prisoners of war.
How's this for covering one's ass... Mam Nay would have us believe the following: "If the prisoners refused to confess, I asked the guards to take them back to their cells to think and reflect on their positive and negative activities," he said.

I get the feeling that Mam Nay is ensuring that he doesn't incriminate himself with his evidence. Although it wasn't under oath, Duch has previously said that Mam Nay was his interrogator and that he used torture on Western prisoners at S-21. There's also countless occasions where Mam Nay is detailed on S-21 reports and confessions as being the interrogator.
I await his further testimony with a pinch of salt.

July 14, 2009 at 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I can't say who did what because I wasn't even born yet until 1986 in Cambodia and we might never know for sure who is responsible, the idea of bringing a 3 decades old genocide story to justice is a bit tricky. He might very well be knowingly omitting certain facts for self preservation but that is nothing surprise there. I'm sure we would all do the same if we did such horrible things and are put in the same position as he is right now, in court that is.

This might be more or less relevant to the topic but I remember the psychology term bias, a condition where the mind don't remember what happened the way it really did but the way they want it to be that is more favorable to the current situation. It's like a process of altering the past in the mind to what is more suitable to the current self. e.g. two friends who had a fallout but gotten back together after many years passed. They reconnect and their friendship flourishes one more time. However, when they talk about what happened, the two or one of them, consciously or not remember things very differently from the way it happened. Any rift that happened is seemed to be erased from the memory or altered in a way that is more favorable and pleasant to their current relationship. Man, I should have taken more psychology classes lol.

July 14, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

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