A former platoon chief at the Trapeang Thma Dam worksite in Banteay Meanchey province told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday of widespread fear among upper cadre there following the Southwest Zone’s purge of the site’s brutal commander.
Tak Boy, who was in charge of a mobile unit of about 30 workers tasked with constructing an embankment at the site, said that following the arrest of Ta Val, who he described as “cruel” and “wicked,” cadre close to the commander fled, fearing they would meet a similar fate.
“[Ta Val’s] subordinates went back and forth between where they were and where Ta Val was working, reporting to him, and when Ta Val was arrested, those people fled. They left their mobile unit and just vanished,” Mr. Boy said.
“They were his right-hand men and I am unable to tell you exactly where they fled to,” he added during questioning by Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, who is standing trial along with Khieu Samphan for crimes including genocide.
Despite Ta Val’s cruelty, Mr. Boy said that he personally became more anxious after the commander’s arrest due to his past as a low-ranking soldier in the Khmer Republic from 1972 to 1975.
While his bosses in the Northwest Zone had tolerated his connection to Lon Nol’s regime, he worried replacements from the Southwest Zone would not be as lenient, so Mr. Boy said he decided to conceal his past.
“[P]eople from the Southwest Zone came to power so I was still in an atmosphere—a climate—of fear. I was afraid of being killed because I didn’t know when my turn would come,” he said.
“So all I did was to leave no stone unturned and I worked with devotion because I had been a soldier of the Lon Nol army in the past. So, I always tried to conceal my identity as a Lon Nol soldier.”
Mr. Boy continues his testimony Thursday.