A former messenger and prison guard at Kraing Ta Chan security center in Takeo province told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday that all executions at the site were carried out by a group of six prison leaders and that he would have been killed for reading any of the letters he was responsible for delivering.
Van Soeun, alias “Suon,” claimed he was forced to join the Khmer Rouge as a teenager after the regime’s soldiers overran Takeo in 1974 and was initially tasked with searching for “enemies” at the foot of Damrei Romiel Mountain before being stationed at Kraing Ta Chan.
Besides patrolling the prison’s exterior, Mr. Soeun said he was responsible for delivering letters from Kraing Ta Chan to a local regime office but never read the content of the letters for fear of deadly ramifications.
“At that time, from my observation, it was not just a threat—if I would have opened the letter or envelope, I would have been executed,” said Mr. Soeun, who claimed he witnessed prison chief Ta An signing letters after “Little Duch”—an alias for Srei Than, who appeared at the tribunal as a witness last month—typed them.
Mr. Soeun claimed that he was part of a six-man guard unit that included “Little Duch”—who has been accused by former prisoner Soy Sen of murder and rape during the Democratic Kampuchea period—but laid all responsibility for executions and interrogations on the prison’s six leaders.
He identified those leaders as Ta An, Cheng, Penh, Chieng, Moeun and Chhoeun.
“So to sum things up…with regard to the administration, interrogation and execution of prisoners, this was only the leadership, while security guards did practically nothing?” asked senior assistant prosecutor Vincent de Wilde, to which Mr. Soeun answered: “Yes.”
Hearings in the second phase of Case 002—in which the regime’s “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan face charges including genocide—continue Wednesday.