KRT Witness Tells of Purges of Alleged Spies

A witness told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday that accused traitors from the country’s East Zone disappeared from the Kompong Chhnang airport construction site after being tied up and piled into trucks, accused of acting as CIA or KGB spies.

Keo Kin, who was born in 1965 and became a child messenger for the Khmer Rouge in 1974 before the communist forces took control of Phnom Penh, said he was stationed at the airport site in 1976 and tasked with hard labor after a local commander discovered his family had links to the former Lon Nol regime.

Witness Keo Kin rises as the judges enter the courtroom at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday. (ECCC)
Witness Keo Kin rises as the judges enter the courtroom at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday. (ECCC)

The witness explained that most of workers at the site had originally come from the country’s East Zone and many were accused of being traitors of the revolution.

“I saw them being called to a meeting and [cadre] pointed guns at them. They were in a office and the door was closed so they couldn’t find anywhere to escape and there [were] also guards stationed outside,” Mr. Kin said.

“They were tied up and put into trucks. There were two or three trucks and the trucks then left Kompong Chhnang airport in the direction of Phnom Penh,” he said.

Mr. Kin said those arrested had been accused of being CIA, KGB or Vietnamese spies.

“After people were accused they would be arrested and the people who were arrested were not aware of any offense…. They did not know what a KGB or CIA agent was,” the witness said. “Once a person was accused, they would not be spared,” he added.

During the afternoon session, a heated discussion broke out between Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, and Judge Claudia Fenz over his line of questioning.

Mr. Koppe was asking the witness about his jobs at the site, which involved the construction of a garage and planting vegetables. Mr. Koppe suggested the work may not have been as arduous as the witness initially claimed, to which Mr. Kin agreed.

Despite this, Judge Fenz reprimanded Mr. Koppe for skewing the witness’s testimony and appeared to accuse him of employing tactics similar to the Khmer Rouge.

“As counsel well knows, the question is based on a misrepresentation of facts…. Frankly, for me you sounded as if you were a person from that time, reminding the witness, threatening the witness…of his obligations. There are other ways to put the question.”

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