A former bodyguard for Northwest Zone secretary Ruos Nhim told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday that he was once ordered to collect Vietnamese military uniforms during an operation carried out in the dead of night at the border.
The witness, identified only as 2-TCW-1036 because of his involvement in ongoing investigations, testified during hearings related to the regime’s internal purges.
He told the court he was instructed by a member of Ruos Nhim’s staff to drive through the night to Phnom Den Mountain on the Cambodian-Vietnamese border in 1977 to collect military uniforms and equipment. He said he then was instructed to wait until the following night before returning to Ruos Nhim’s house in Battambang.
“If he had assignments for me to do he would call me to come,” the witness said.
Ruos Nhim had reportedly left for the mountain with three of his “inner circle” of bodyguards earlier that day, the witness said, while he arrived in the early hours of the next morning with two other bodyguards. He said he never saw the zone secretary.
Under cover of darkness, an unidentified group of people loaded the military uniforms and equipment into the back of their truck and then left, the witness said.
“I did not know them. I did not know whether they were Khmer,” he said of the group.
In his testimony on Wednesday in the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the witness said the uniforms were “blue-ish” in color and that he believed they were Vietnamese, but did not elaborate.
Nuon Chea’s defense team has painted Ruos Nhim—who was killed in a purge of suspected traitors—as one of the leading antagonists behind an internal plot to overthrow Pol Pot’s regime with the help of the Vietnamese.
During questioning by Victor Koppe, Nuon Chea’s lawyer, about whether he had ever heard that Ruos Nhim “was trying to start a rebellion to resist against Pol Pot,” the witness said he was not aware of any such plan.
“No, I did not hear about that,” he said.
Hearings at the tribunal will resume on October 4.