Former Cadre Tells of Pol Pot’s Hunt for Escaped ‘Traitors’

A former Khmer Rouge cadre on Wednesday told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia how he attended a meeting in Phnom Penh at which Pol Pot handed down orders to comb the Central Zone for traitors who had “escaped into the forest.”

Pech Chim, 73, was inducted into the Communist Party of Kampuchea in 1971 by Ta Mok’s daughter, then-Tram Kak district party chief Yeay Khom, and later became a member of the Tram Kak district committee in Takeo province before being transferred to the Central Zone.

Pech Chim testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Wednesday. (ECCC)
Pech Chim testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Wednesday. (ECCC)

On Wednesday, Mr. Chim described a meeting chaired by Pol Pot in February 1977 at which the leader raised concerns about people who had “escaped into the forest” from the Central Zone.

“Only Pol Pot spoke at that meeting. He simply said that there were betrayers and other enemies coming into the forest and we had to go and find them, and the party had already given us the task, so we had to accomplish the task assigned,” he said.

Mr. Chim said he “could not remember” if the regime’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea—who is on trial for crimes against humanity along with former regime head of state Khieu Samphan—was at the meeting, despite earlier telling investigators that he was among the high-ranking officials in attendance.

The witness also described how former Central Zone chief Ke Pauk—who died in 2002 before he could face trial—immediately returned to the area to “relay the message” about the presence of traitors. He went on to explain that Ke Pauk would regularly order the removal of cadre from their positions, in at least one case over a “betrayal.”

“Ran Out of People”

“Whenever I sent people to work with him, he would remove them most of the time,” Mr. Chim said. “I ran out of people to send to him, because after all they could not work with him.”

During Wednesday’s session, Mr. Chim also gave evidence that Yeay Krom ordered the defrocking of monks at Ang Roka pagoda in Tram Kak district after the Khmer Rouge took power, and that she was present when evacuees from Phnom Penh were taken to Champa Leuk pagoda, also in Takeo province, where another cadre previously testified that Lon Nol soldiers had been rounded up and disappeared.

“I suspected these kinds of measures had been taken against the bad elements, but no one dared to say anything—everyone was quiet because we had to toe the political line,” he said, claiming that he did not witness Lon Nol soldiers being targeted. “As we say in Khmer, ‘Everyone for himself.’ That’s it. I experienced this terrible regime like everyone,” he added.

Mr. Chim, who also testified in the first phase of the trial against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, is due to continue giving evidence Thursday.

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