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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 November 2007, 12:23 GMT
Khmer Rouge's Pol Pot 'a patriot'
Khieu Samphan (file image from July 2003)
A UN tribunal is mulling genocide charges against Khieu Samphan
The leader of Cambodia's Khmer Rouge was a patriot who staunchly defended social justice, the regime's former head of state has said.

In a new book, Khieu Samphan says there was never a policy to starve people and no order to carry out mass killings.

Prosecutors are studying the book to determine what defence Khieu Samphan may take if he is ever charged.

Some estimates say up to 2.5 million people died during the Khmer Rouge reign from 1975 to 1979.

Khieu Samphan is one of the few surviving senior figures of the regime.

Four of his colleagues have been charged by a UN-backed genocide tribunal and Khieu Samphan, 76, is expected to be added.

'People's well-being'

In his book, Reflection on Cambodian History Up to the Era of Democratic Kampuchea, Khieu Samphan says Pol Pot was a leader who "sacrificed his entire life... to defend national sovereignty".

WHO WERE THE KHMER ROUGE?
Pol Pot in 1979
Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979
Founded and led by Pol Pot, (above) who died in 1998
Abolished religion, schools and currency in a bid to create agrarian utopia
Brutal regime that did not tolerate dissent
More than a million people thought to have died from starvation, overwork or execution

Pol Pot was responsible for all policies, right or wrong, Khieu Samphan says.

He writes: "There was no policy of starving people. Nor was there any direction set out for carrying out mass killings.

"There was always close consideration of the people's well-being."

Khieu Samphan says "coercion was also needed" to make people work to redress food shortages.

But analysts say that mass graves and abundant testimonies from survivors paint a picture of a regime that oversaw the deaths of between one million and 2.5 million people through executions, forced labour and starvation.

Millions were forced from cities to communal farms in the countryside until the Khmer Rouge was finally overthrown in 1979 by invading Vietnamese troops.

The UN tribunal was established to seek justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims of the Maoist regime.

The BBC's Guy de Launey in Phnom Penh says Khieu Samphan's arrest was apparently only days away this week when the former head of state apparently suffered a stroke at his home in Pailin, near the Thai border.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arranged for Khieu Samphan to be airlifted to hospital.

Officials must now decide whether ill health will affect any charges.

In his book, Khieu Samphan also criticises the current regime, saying: "Government officials, military officers, the rich, indulge themselves with excessive spending."

SEE ALSO
Ex-Khmer Rouge leader in hospital
14 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Key Khmer Rouge figures charged
12 Nov 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Key figures in the Khmer Rouge
19 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Cambodia's brutal Khmer Rouge regime
19 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Senior Khmer Rouge leader charged
19 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Rocky road to Khmer Rouge trial
26 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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