An expert on the treatment of Cham Muslims during the Pol Pot era admitted at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday that some of his sources may have exaggerated accounts of their experience in order to find justice for relatives who perished at the hands of the regime.
Testifying for a final day, Ysa Osman, author of “The Cham Rebellion,” which documents uprisings by Cham Muslims in Kompong Cham province that were violently suppressed by the Khmer Rouge, was questioned on the reliability of his sources.
Anta Guisse, a lawyer for Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan—who is on trial for crimes including genocide alongside Nuon Chea, the regime’s second-in-command—grilled the author on whether he was sure that survivors were telling the truth when he interviewed them.
The French lawyer raised the case of No Satas, a survivor of the Svay Khleang rebellion who testified at the tribunal in September. Ms. Satas had told Mr. Osman that she witnessed a massacre but later admitted to investigating judges at the court that she had lied in an attempt to bring justice to those who lost their lives.
“As part of your interviews, did you have the impression that people like No Satas could provide information on events that they hadn’t witnessed with their own eyes or erroneous information because they needed to have justice done?” Ms. Guisse asked.
“Of course I had the same feeling as you just put to me. Victims would want to see justice being done, and sometimes the words that they used would be a little bit more than what actually happened,” Mr. Osman replied.
The researcher said, however, that while individual accounts might have been exaggerated, reports of mass killings of Cham Muslims were still accurate.
“Witnesses refer to the killings, and of course the killings did take place. That’s why they lost family members and parents, and that’s why hundreds of thousands of Cham people perished during the regime,” he said.
Under questioning from the prosecution, Mr. Osman, who was himself born in Svay Khleang, a village in what is now Tbong Khmum province, said he believed the disproportionately violent “crackdowns” on Cham Muslims were ordered by the regime’s upper echelons.
“To my observation, the crackdown on the Chams, the rebellion movement—the transfer and selection of those who were involved in the rebellion and then were killed—that decision was agreed and was decided by those who were in the upper level,” he said.