PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A former interrogator at the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison on Tuesday expressed no remorse for the deaths of thousands of Cambodians who he said had all committed crimes.
Appearing as a prosecution witness in the trial of Duch, Pol Pot’s head jailor, Mam Nay, also known as Chan, denied any part in torture or killings of prisoners and blamed the United States and Vietnam for undermining his country.
An estimated 1.7 million people died during the Khmer Rouge’s four-year “killing fields” reign of terror, which ended when Vietnamese forces invaded in 1979.
Asked by the judge if he regretted what happened at the Tuol Sleng prison, where more than 14,000 men, women and children were killed, Chan showed no remorse.
“My only regret was our country was invaded,” he told the joint Cambodian-U.N. tribunal. “Frankly speaking, the Americans invaded us then Vietnam invaded us. That is my regret.”
During his five hours of questioning, Nay, a former teacher, said he remembered very little about the S-21 interrogation center, a former school and now a museum to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime.
He was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony but was reluctant to speak against Duch, the first of the five indicted former Khmer Rouge cadres to face trial.
“I was assigned by Duch to interrogate detainees,” said Chan, who wore sunglasses and a traditional Cambodian scarf. “I did not use torture in my interrogation. I believed I would not get a true confession.”
Asked about the deaths of innocent people, Nay, 76, said: “None of them was innocent — those people committed offences, either minor or serious.
“This was the reason for their arrest. How serious or how minor, I don’t know.”
With no death penalty in Cambodia, Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder.
Also indicted are Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, former President Khieu Samphan and ex-foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, all of whom have denied knowledge of the atrocities.
Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who was known by the regime as “Brother Number One,” died in 1998 near the Thai-Cambodia border.
Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Nick Macfie