The alleged former chief of Kraing Ta Chan prison told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Wednesday that he would drop by the Takeo province security center on his bicycle to have a “chit-chat” with comrades but continued to refute claims he was ever in charge of the prison.
Phann Chhen, better known by his alias “Ta Chhen,” told the court he joined the revolution in 1970 and was sent to work in rice fields in Kompong Speu province in 1974. Mr. Chhen said he would stop in to “say hello” to friends at the prison when cycling through Tram Kak district on visits home.
“During that time…I would visit my house and I would stop [at Kraing Ta Chan] on my way home and had chit-chat,” he said, claiming that he was oblivious to what went on inside the notorious security center.
“I didn’t know about the prisoners and didn’t ask about how many prisoners were at the security center and I didn’t pay attention to this matter,” he said, adding that his friends were An and Phy, who he alleged were the prison chiefs.
During two days of testimony, Mr. Chenn contradicted previous statements he and a former Tram Kak district chief made to investigators, as well as that of civil party Soy Sen, who told the court that Mr. Chhen was Kraing Ta Chan’s chief until he was replaced by Ta An in 1975.
The witness, who lives in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng district in Oddar Meanchey province, repeatedly stated that he was stationed in Kompong Speu before relocating to the Dangrek Mountains in 1979.
Mr. Chhen said Wednesday that he had maintained a cordial relationship with Mr. Sen—who earlier this month told the court that the alleged prison chief was present at interrogations—following the fall of the regime.
“He was into his sawmill business and…he came to Anlong Veng so I asked him to cut some wood for me to build a house…I met him frequently,” Mr. Chhen said, adding that there was “nothing to hide.”