Khmer Rouge Official Responds to ‘Master of Death’ Label

Confronted with allegations that he was called the “Master of Death,” a former Khmer Rouge district official who has been accused of ordering purges claimed on Friday that he was “very careful” in carrying out his duties.

Pech Chim, who was appearing as a witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, claimed to have been only a member of the Tram Kak district committee in Takeo province until he left for the Central Zone in 1977, but has been identified by witnesses as the district’s chief. 

Former district hospital chief Riel Son last month told the court that Mr. Chim was responsible for ordering village and commune chiefs in 1976 to “purge” former Lon Nol soldiers and civil servants, accusations that Mr. Chim laid at the feet of higher officials.

On Friday, Arthur Vercken, international lawyer for former regime leader Khieu Samphan, who is on trial along with Nuon Chea, presented Mr. Chim with testimony of an earlier witness who said he was known as the “Master of Death.” Mr. Chim denied all knowledge of the moniker.

“But we were very careful in implementing our responsibility and duties,” he added. “We had to avoid being too harsh, too cruel. But…there were tens of thousands of people; they would speak differently of different situations.

“Maybe tens of thousands of people like it, but one or two thousand people did not like it, and there were more than 250,000 people in Tram Kak district.”

Mr. Vercken, who was pressing the witness on earlier statements he made to investigators regarding “suppressing or eliminating traitors,” suggested to Mr. Chim that he was avoiding responsibility by blaming his superiors.

“That was not correct. [The killing] was emanating from the war and it was natural. It was the natural occurrence,” he replied. “I knew myself that I did not do it: I followed the instruction, I followed the party line.”

Hearings at the tribunal resume Monday.

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