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Ex-Khmer Rouge Gen. Can Be Summoned

June 4, 1999

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ Cambodia’s Defense Ministry approved a summons Friday for a former Khmer Rouge general to testify at the trial of an ex-comrade accused of ordering the 1994 killing of three Western tourists.

Prince Sisowath Sirirath, a co-defense minister, said while Gen. Sam Bith can testify, the ministry has yet to locate him. He is the former superior of Nuon Paet, a Khmer Rouge commander who goes on trial Monday.

``All my colleagues are searching for him,″ Sirirath said. ``Hopefully, he will be found before the trial.″

The backpackers _ Briton Mark Slater, Australian David Wilson and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet _ were abducted on July 26, 1994, when Nuon Paet’s soldiers attacked a train they were on from Phnom Penh to the seaside town of Sihanoukville.

The guerrillas demanded $150,000 in exchange for the hostages, held at Nuon Paet’s mountaintop base. After three months of talks with the government, the Khmer Rouge killed the men, all in their late 20s.

Sam Bith, who defected in 1997 and received a general’s rank in the Cambodian army, had been summoned for questioning by the municipal court, but Cambodian law requires the approval of his superiors before forcing him to act as a witness.

After Nuon Paet’s arrest in August, the Phnom Penh Post newspaper printed Khmer Rouge radio communications intercepted by the Cambodian army that place Sam Bith as the middleman between Nuon Paet and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

Nuon Paet, who will plead innocent, has accused Sam Bith of ordering the executions.

The Khmer Rouge finally collapsed as a guerrilla force last year, 20 years after their genocidal revolutionary regime was toppled by an invading Vietnamese army. Pol Pot died in April 1998.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians perished under the Khmer Rouge’s rule between 1975 and 1979.

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