Citing Safety, KRT Witness Cuts Testimony Short

A Civil Party witness who joined the propaganda arm of the Khmer Rouge cut his time on the stand short Monday for fear of his safety, and asked the court to ensure that he would be protected until his death.

During Monday’s hearing at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Sar Sarin, who is in his 60s, told the court that he was 13 when he joined the regime’s propaganda arm and began sharing the party’s manifesto through song and dance.

“We, the art performers, were asked to educate people through songs,” he said. “And we would then ask the villagers to come to watch the play. But during the performance, we would then disseminate information concerning the movement.”

Mr. Sarin eventually joined the army, and by October 1975, he found himself dispatched to Phnom Penh, where he was recruited to the K-12 “driving unit.” “We had to go and collect cars abandoned by people along the street and gather them,” Mr. Sarin said. “Those cars that were broken had to be fixed and divided into several groups.”

Becoming a driver for the regime put him in close proximity with the likes of Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Thirith, who he said would welcome delegations from China, Burma and Yugoslavia.

But when Mr. Sarin was asked about study sessions led by co-defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, his mood changed. “I am fearful and I am afraid my personal security would be at great risk,” he told the court. “I think now it is up to the chamber who can assure I will be safe and…in exchange, I would be grateful to help the chamber with providing more useful information.

“The Khmer Rouge are not happy their leaders are on trial. If they knew this would be [how things would end], they would never have surrendered and reintegrated. If my testimony is shared, my background would be identified.”

Mr. Sarin asked Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn to arrange for him to have four protection officers “from today until the day I die,” and for that cost to be borne by the state.

After several bouts of deliberation, however, it was ruled that the request could not be granted as the court did not have the jurisdiction to do so, and Mr. Sarin was excused.

Testimony of witness Un Chhat, a former Khmer Rouge platoon chief, continues today.

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