After Much Debacle, Witness Returns to Stand at KR Tribunal

For the first time since funding woes brought the court to a complete standstill early last month and former Khmer Rouge foreign minister Ieng Sary died March 14, a witness took the stand at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday.

With just two defendants being tried—of which only former head of state Khieu Samphan was actually in the courtroom—62-year-old Chhaom Se continued to tell the court about his time in the re­gime’s Northeast Zone where he ran a re-education center.

In January, the last time Mr. Se had testified, he described a “chaotic” situation at the border, where unruly soldiers and other undesirables were disciplined at a security center in Ratanakkiri province called O Kansang.

On Monday, Mr. Se explained how he was promoted to chairman by the Division 801 commander, Sao Saroeun, who then went on to chair the zone, and for whom Mr. Se had been a messenger.

“It was a rapport we had built long ago and he felt like having me as his messenger; he’d like me to assist him,” Mr. Se said. “He treated me like his brother or nephew in a sense and I personally was seen to be having performed my duties very well and I was very much liked and trusted by him because he noted I was very committed and for that reason he chose me.”

In Mr. Se’s interview with the Co-Investigating Judges, he told them of a purge of more than 100 ethnic Jarai men and women at the center “before 1979.”

In questioning yesterday, Senior Assistant Prosecutor Vincent de Wilde reminded the witness that he had told the court in January that he “exercised no au­thority to implement any decisions,” and that Sao Saroeun decided if prisoners would be liberated or executed.

He then asked Mr. Se about the arrest and execution of the more than 100 ethnic Jarai men and nine women, who had been detained overnight at O Kansang.

“This part, the issue of 100 Jarai, they were captured by the military and it was the sole discretion of Sao Saroeun because he was the commander of [Division] 801,” Mr. Se said. He also said Sao Saroeun communicated directly with regime leaders in Phnom Penh, and then gave him directions that he had to follow. “[The Jarai] were brought in and left at the office, then the soldiers took them to pits and executed them on orders from the zone chairman.”

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