Hor Namhong Was Khmer Rouge Prison Chief, Tribunal Told

Former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong was chief of the Boeng Trabek prison camp during the Pol Pot regime, not an inmate, a former prisoner whose husband disappeared at the camp told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday.

Ros Chuor Siy, 77, told the court via videolink from Paris that she returned to Phnom Penh from the French capital in August 1976 by invitation of Foreign Minister Ieng Sary with her husband Ros Sarin, who was studying for a doctorate in aviation, and their three daughters.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong shakes hands with former US Ambassador William Todd during their final meeting in Phnom Penh in 2015. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong shakes hands with former US Ambassador William Todd during their final meeting in Phnom Penh last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

She testified that she realized upon stepping onto the tarmac that they would not be welcomed with open arms. They were placed in two camps before being relocated to Boeng Trabek by November. About a month later, her husband told her he was to be relocated, she said.

“His last words, that we would meet again, [were] never realized,” she said. “It had gone with the wind.”

After the fall of the regime, Ms. Chuor Siy said she saw a photograph of her husband on a wall inside the former S-21 prison in Phnom Penh.

“Finally, I saw a photo of my husband. It was there and I wanted to cry out loud. I almost fainted,” she said.

Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea, who is on trial for crimes including genocide alongside former head of state Khieu Samphan, asked Ms. Chuor Siy about Mr. Namhong’s role at Boeng Trabek.

“When I was at Boeng Trabek, Hor Namhong was the chief of the Boeng Trabek office,” Ms. Chuor Siy said. “He divided the assignments among groups; that’s what I knew…. He was not a prisoner.”

She said she did not know whether Mr. Namhong played any role in deciding whether prisoners would be sent to S-21. 

Mr. Namhong’s role at the Khmer Rouge camp is a highly sensitive topic in Cambodian politics, and he has repeatedly attempted to distance himself from claims that he held any authority there.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s current self-imposed exile came after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court decided to enforce a two-year sentence in a defamation case brought over claims that Mr. Namhong was complicit in crimes committed at the prison.

Ms. Chuor Siy, appearing in a civil party victim impact hearing, also took aim at the tribunal for its failure to secure a guilty verdict against Ieng Sary before his death in 2013.

“It seems that the Khmer Rouge tribunal proceeded rather slowly and as a result the accused died before he was even tried,” she said.

“It was Ieng Sary himself who went on a propaganda [drive] for Khmer expatriates living overseas to return to Cambodia to rebuild our war-torn country.”


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