A former Khmer Rouge soldier who helped bring the regime to power in 1975 returned to his home village after its fall to discover that more than 20 family members had been tortured and killed, he testified at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday.
“It was the most regretful and painful experience for me,” he said. “They were arrested, tortured and executed. Every time I think of them I feel the pain, emotionally and physically, and I have been traumatized since.”
“I tried to follow party lines. I sacrificed my life, and I did not mind as to when I die,” he told the tribunal, which is pursuing a case against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity including genocide.
The witness, identified only as 2-TCCP-235 because of his involvement in ongoing investigations, directed his testimony at the two accused leaders.
“Why [were] my parents, my blood siblings and my relatives, myself and my comrades in arms…tortured, imprisoned and forced to work day and night with insufficient food?” he asked. “They subsequently disappeared. Why did such things happen?”
As a 15-year-old monk in 1971, during a time in which the Khmer Rouge was expanding its influence in the Cambodian countryside, the witness was defrocked by the regime, assigned to hard labor and made to join its military, he said.
He participated in the 1975 attack on Phnom Penh, which toppled the Lon Nol government that preceded the Khmer Rouge’s four-year reign, he said, and continued to serve the hard-line communist regime in its later battles against Vietnam until the neighboring country finally defeated it in 1979.
On Friday, the witness recalled a radio broadcast during the Khmer Rouge era in which Khieu Samphan announced food rations and described his government as the “perfect regime.”
Having devoted his life to the regime, he could not accept what they had done to his home, he said, and lodged a complaint with the U.N.-backed court to seek justice for his family and the up to 2 million other Cambodians killed during the period.