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06PHNOMPENH1374 2006-07-31 06:55:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Phnom Penh
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1. (SBU) Summary. Ung Choeun, widely known as Ta Mok, age 82,
passed away on July 21 at a military hospital where he had been
hospitalized since June 29. Since his passing, government
officials, the media, and civil society leaders have discussed the
impact of his death on the proceedings of the KRT; specifically, the
concern that other elderly leaders of the Khmer Rouge might die
before the ECCC trials are completed and justice is realized for the
victims of Cambodia's genocide of 1975-79. End Summary.

Ta Mok Dies, Escapes Justice


2. (U) Ung Choeun, widely known as Ta Mok, passed away on July 21
at the Military Hospital of Preah Ketomealear, following a recent
illness. A former senior commander of the Khmer Rouge, Ta Mok had
remained in military detention since his arrest in 1999 awaiting
trial for alleged involvement in the genocide committed during the
Khmer Rouge period (1975-79). Om Yentieng, President of the
Government's Human Rights Committee and a senior advisor to Prime
Minister Hun Sen, relayed the government's disappointment that the
KR leader passed away before facing justice. Yentieng told the
Embassy that both the military detention facility and medics at the
hospital tried to save Ta Mok, but the former Khmer Rouge leader
could not survive due to old age compounded by a variety of diseases
and history of poor health. Pok Porn, a government military
prosecutor, said the military court regretted that Ta Mok's life
could not be saved despite the best efforts of the military

3. (U) Ta Mok died just days after the Extraordinary Chamber in
the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) investigating judges and prosecutors
began their work on July 10. The former Khmer Rouge commander was
among a handful of senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge to stand trial
before the ECCC. The rest are also elderly and could die before the
ECCC's completion - a concern shared by many government officials
and civil society leaders.

Opposition Leader Demands Autopsy; Local Reaction



4. (SBU) Opposition leader Sam Rainsy demanded that the government
carry out a forensic examination to determine the cause of Ta Mok's
death. Stating that he felt sorry for the loss of an important
defendent in the upcoming trials, Sam Rainsy said the timing of Ta
Mok's death - coming at the beginning of ECCC's work - was too
coincidential. "I fear that someone was behind his death," Sam
Rainsy told the Embassy on July 21. "They might fear that, with Ta
Mok alive, his testimony could affect them or the former Khmer Rouge
leader might be willing to tell the truth before the tribunal."
Additionally, Sam Rainsy demanded the ECCC and the government take
effective and immediate action to protect the safety and health of
other senior Khmer Rouge leaders to ensure they stand trial.

5. (U) ECCC spokesman Reach Sambath expressed the ECCC's regret
over Ta Mok's death because Ta Mok was a potential source of
genocide-related information. The spokesman added that the ECCC
believes Ta Mok received appropriate care and treatment prior to his
death, noting that a group of Cambodian Red Cross representatives
visited Ta Mok at the hospital.

6. (SBU) Kem Sokha, Director of Cambodian Center for Human Rights
(CCHR) said that Ta Mok's death was unfortunate as he was considered
an important defendant and potential witness for the ECCC. As a
senior former Khmer Rouge commander, Ta Mok was well placed to
understand what transpired under Pol Pot that led to the deaths of
over one million Cambodians between the years 1975-79. Concerning
Ta Mok's death, Sokha blamed the Cambodian government in part
because, according to complaints from Ta Mok's relatives, the
military hospital where Ta Mok was treated was inadequate. Sokha
warned that the government should pay greater attention to the
health of Kaing Kek Iv, alias Duch, who is also in military
detention awaiting trial before the ECCC.

7. (SBU) Kek Galabru, LICADHO director, said that she was sorry
for Ta Mok's death but could not lay blame on the government absent
a medical examination. She further expressed regret over the long
delay in establishing the ECCC and urged expedited trials for those
surviving members of the Khmer Rouge regime. While the ECCC is
unlikely to provide judicial satisfaction to every victim of the
Khmer Rouge, the trials can be a symbol of justice that could
prevent further impunity in Cambodia and other countries in the
world, she noted.

Funeral in Anlong Veng


8. (U) On July 21, Ta Mok's body returned to Anlong Veng, the
former stronghold of the Khmer Rouge in northwestern Cambodia's
Oddar Meanchey province where Ta Mok was based in 1997 and where Pol

PHNOM PENH 00001374 002 OF 002

Pot died in 1997 under Ta Mok's custody. Ta Mok received Buddhist
burial rituals and his funeral drew hundreds of well-wishers to
Anlong Veng throughout the weekend. An American journalist who
witnessed the event (and who had visited Anlong Veng in the
mid-1990s before Ta Mok's arrest in 1997) noted the older tensions
of being in a former Khmer Rouge-held zone had dissipated. Former
Khmer Rouge cadre in the region have moved on with their lives and
the communities are more open to outsiders, he said. The funeral
for Ta Mok and outpouring of sympathy in Anlong Veng over his
passing stood in stark contrast to the mood throughout much of the
rest of the country where Cambodians remembered the former Khmer
Rouge leader as the regional commander in the Southwest zone, where
treatment of the population was often considered the harshest - even
by Khmer Rouge standards.



9. (SBU) We believe that Ta Mok died of natural causes due to his
age, complications from a history of diseases and old injuries, and
rudimentary medical treatment - but no poorer than what the vast
majority of Cambodians receive. We put no stock in speculations
regarding foul play. However, Cambodians are rightfully concerned
that other elderly Khmer Rouge leaders may also escape justice
before the ECCC trials are completed in the court's three-year
tenure, given that international tribunals tend to continue beyond
their projected timeframe. An ECCC detention facility will not be
completed before mid-2007; until then, the court is unwilling to
take responsibility - for personal security or medical care - for
Duch or any of the other potential defendents. End Comment.