Bridget Di Certo
The Phnom Penh Post
Nuon Chea’s defence counsel yesterday attempted to implicate Finance Minister Keat Chhon and Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong for their alleged roles during the reign of the Khmer Rouge, but the line of questioning they took with Pol Pot’s nephew was repeatedly blocked by the presiding judge.
Michiel Pestman quizzed Saloth Ban, who has been on the stand for six days, about Keat Chhon accompanying then-King Norodom Sihanouk on an official visit as figurehead of Democratic Kampuchea to the UN secretary-general in October, 1975.
But Saloth Ban, who worked under Case 002 co-accused Ieng Sary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was blocked by trial chamber president Nil Nonn from answering almost any question concerning Keat Chhon or Hor Namhong.
“The witness is instructed not to answer this question, it is irrelevant,” was Nil Nonn’s oft-repeated order.
Pestman persisted with putting questions to the witness, including asking him whether Hor Namhong was chairman of the Khmer Rouge prison Boeung Trabek.
“I only knew that he was at Boeung Trabek; he was sent by Pang to be there,” Saloth Ban said. “I never remember having heard he became the chairman of a place.”
Pestman then asked Saloth Ban why Hor Namhong had received preferential treatment by the regime, including being given a villa near the Independence Monument in the capital.
He also asked Pol Pot’s nephew whether he was afraid of these men and whether Prime Minister Hun Sen had instructed the two ministers to not give testimony to the court.
Court investigators summonsed Keat Chhon, Hor Namhong and other senior government officials as witnesses in 2009, but the summonses were not obeyed.
Nil Nonn blocked Saloth Ban from answering this line of questioning.
Pestman protested that he was using this line of questioning to investigate political interference in Case 002 and also to challenge the credibility of the witness.
Counsel for former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary and ex-president Khieu Samphan took turns questioning Saloth Ban, who gave confusing testimony.