Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Khmer Rouge took 'revenge'


Phnom Penh - Cambodia's former king Norodom Sihanouk has accused the Khmer Rouge of killing members of his family as "retribution" for his resignation as head of state under its regime.

Sihanouk, 85, said the killings were committed under the 1975-1979 regime despite pleas from Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong, according to a handwritten statement by the former monarch dated April 18, a copy of which was obtained by AFP on Tuesday.

Sihanouk was toppled while abroad in March 1970 in a US-backed coup led by Field Marshal Lon Nol, prompting him to flee to Beijing, where he established a relationship with the Khmer Rouge that he would come to regret.

The former king said he and his wife attended a September 1975 meeting in Beijing where Mao asked Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith "to treat Prince N Sihanouk, Princess Monique his wife and their children well".

Grandchildren given to crocodiles

Sihanouk became the symbolic head of state under Pol Pot's ultra-communist regime, but wrote that he resigned in March 1976 because of the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge, which had seized power the previous year.

He was replaced as head of state by Khieu Samphan, who is currently detained by a UN-backed tribunal on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Khmer Rouge's rule and will appeal for bail on Wednesday.

"As retribution, the Khmer Rouge murdered in horrible circumstances five of my children and 14 of my grandchildren, cousins, and their respective wives," Sihanouk wrote in his statement made available before Khieu Samphan's court appearance.

In the statement, Sihanouk said he was told in Paris in 1980 by Cambodian exiles that "the Khmer Rouge had given some of my grandchildren to the crocodiles".

"Other grandchildren had their heads smashed against tree trunks," the former monarch wrote.

He spent the "Killing Fields" years under house arrest in the royal palace, but was not harmed thanks to his personal friendship with Mao.

Up to two million people died of starvation and overwork or were executed under the Khmer Rouge, which abolished religion, schools and currency, and exiled millions to vast collective farms.

Sihanouk, who abdicated in 2004, has faced allegations questioning his allegiances under the regime, but said last year he would not testify before the genocide court.

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders are under the custody of the court for their alleged role in the crimes, regarded as one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

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