Former Soldier Tells Tribunal of Purge at Dam

A witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal told the court on Tuesday that he feared for his life at the Trapaing Thma dam worksite despite his loyalty to the regime as his fellow soldiers began being rounded up in 1977.

The man, who was not named because he is also a witness in ongoing cases 003 and 004, said he feared for his survival as the regime began purging its ranks around the time Southwest Zone cadre replaced their Northwest Zone counterparts.

An unnamed witness speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday. (ECCC)
An unnamed witness speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday. (ECCC)

“I was frightened despite the fact that I was loyal to Angkar, but I saw cadre who were loyal to the party of Angkar were also arrested,” the witness said.

Although he had seen that his name was not included on an extensive arrest list, the witness, who claimed he was reassigned from his job at the dam site to a fishing unit nearby in 1977, said he was bundled onto a truck with fellow cadre Ta Morn after the two were called to a group meeting.

“Ta Morn was afraid to be arrested so he fled to take refuge in my fishing unit…. While he was at my fishing unit, they found out and they tricked him as well as myself to go and attend an education meeting” at the dam site, the witness said.

“When we arrived at Trapaing Thma, I told Ta Morn that we were subject to be arrested and then he asked me to flee. But I said that I was loyal to Angkar and…if Angkar had to arrest me then I [was] determined to be arrested by Angkar although it means that I might be dead,” he said.

A white truck soon pulled up and gun-wielding soldiers ordered the pair to get in. One of the soldiers then pushed the witness out the back and the fall knocked him out.

Under questioning by Victor Koppe, a lawyer for Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge second-in-command on trial for crimes including genocide, the witness said the much-feared Ta Val, who oversaw the Trapaing Thma site before he was arrested, was kind-hearted, albeit unpredictable.

“Since I was close to him, I knew that he was agitated only in words. But he had a good heart, so if he was angry you just move away from him and a while later you could approach him again,” he said.

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