A former village chief in Kompong Thom province during the Pol Pot regime told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday that cadre would pretend to be recent evacuees after the fall of Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975, in order to root out soldiers of the deposed government.
Or Ho, who was a chief of Prey Sra Ngae village in Baray district, became the first witness to appear at the tribunal to give evidence relating to the Khmer Rouge’s massive January 1 dam worksite in Kompong Thom.
Mr. Ho said that following the evacuation of the capital, cadre in the province would attempt to disguise themselves as evacuees in order to fool new arrivals into disclosing their roles in the previous regime.
“From my recollection at that time, guards wore the bright colored clothing. They said that they were the April 17 people and they said they were captains. They went around and asked people to tell the truth whether [they] were former soldiers,” he said.
The witness said that an ex-teacher whose life was spared was assigned to trick former soldiers into confessing to having served under the Khmer Republic.
“If by mistake they said those words, they could not be saved; they had to die,” he said.
Mr. Ho also said that orders were given to eliminate workers at the dam site if they were not meeting required targets.
“I do not know who did [the killing]. However, people would be arrested and sent to be detained at the security office and most of them would not return to the worksite,” he said.
When asked by co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian whether somebody could be labeled an “enemy” of the revolution for something as trivial as not being able to carry the required amount of dirt, the witness agreed.
“From what people said, those people would be considered the infiltrated enemies and that they were the ones that obstruct the worker progress or worker movement,” he said.
He also claimed that Pol Pot once visited the worksite but said he was only made aware of the leader’s presence after it was pointed out by Central Zone chief Ke Pork.
Mr. Ho’s testimony in the second phase of Case 002—in which Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are on trial for crimes including genocide—continues Wednesday.