Khmer Rouge Hospital Official Tells Tribunal of Purge Orders

A witness told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Wednesday that he attended meetings before and after Phnom Penh fell to Khmer Rouge forces during which cadre were instructed to purge former members of the Lon Nol regime.

Riel Son, deputy chief of Takeo province’s Tram Kak district hospital during the Pol Pot regime, said district chief Ta Chim set out guidelines for dealing with members of the previous administration before the arrival of evacuees from the capital, and reiterated the instructions at a meeting in 1976.

“By that time, the evacuees were everywhere in the villages and the communes and he instructed the chiefs of the villages and the communes to research…whether [the evacuees were] former Lon Nol ranking officers and civil servants in the previous administration…and if that was the case, they needed to be purged,” said Mr. Son, who had no medical experience before being appointed to the hospital.

The witness said the district chief decreed that anyone whose rank was equal to or higher than deputy administration chief or “adjutant” in the military during the Khmer Republic period should be purged. He said he believed “purge” translated directly as “execute” but admitted he had never witnessed any killings.

Mr. Son—whose daughter lived with Southwest Zone commander Ta Mok from the age of 13 to 30, when the final Khmer Rouge stronghold of Anlong Veng fell to government forces—also told of how he was instructed to spray insecticide around Kraing Ta Chan security center in an attempt to eradicate mosquitos carrying malaria and caught a glimpse of the grim reality for prisoners inside.

“They were moaning while I went to spray DDT there…. I did not know for sure how many people there were, as I just had a quick look at them because I was afraid and I saw them all lying down,” he said.

Victor Koppe, a lawyer for the regime’s “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea—who is on trial for crimes against humanity alongside former head of state Khieu Samphan—grilled the witness on his claim that his patients died from dysentery due to malnutrition and overwork inflicted by the Khmer Rouge, suggesting that the illness could have been caused by bacteria in the water.

Mr. Son’s testimony concludes Thursday.

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