In 1977, Nuon Chea delivered a speech in front of hundreds relocated from the Pol Pot regime’s Northwest Zone to tell them they had been saved from treacherous leaders there who were planning to kill them, the Khmer Rouge tribunal heard on Monday.
The civil party, identified only as 2-TCCP-223 due to his role in ongoing investigations, was testifying in a vital segment focusing on the role of the accused—“Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and head of state Khieu Samphan—in the crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge era.
He told the court how he lived with Nuon Chea in Phnom Penh as a child before later doing various jobs for the ultra-communists, including taking local and foreign guests to Angkor Wat.
However, in 1977, he said he was accused of being part of a “treacherous network” in the Northwest Zone and was sent to stay at the University of Phnom Penh.
Following meetings in which hundreds were shown footage of films illustrating the “heroism of Khmer people,” Nuon Chea spoke on why people from the Northwest Zone had been relocated to the capital.
“He said that we were brought to Phnom Penh by the party in order to survive from those traitors at various zones, since those people at the zones were planning to persecute and kill us,” the civil party said.
The Northwest Zone is central to the Nuon Chea defense, with his lawyers arguing that its leader, Ruos Nhim, was a powerful leader who exercised considerable autonomy over which the party leadership had little control. The prosecution refute this claim, arguing that the Khmer Rouge had a strict hierarchical structure that wielded control over the whole country.
The civil party said his uncle, Say, a Khmer Rouge office chief in Battambang province, was purged after Nuon Chea accused him of being a traitor.
Asked if he believed that Nuon Chea was actually attempting to protect Northwest Zone civilians and cadres from their murderous leaders, the civil party said he did not, “because what he said and the real events were not consistent.”
“During the purging period, they used the terms like ‘send those people to study,’ but those people who were sent to study disappeared and never returned,” he said.
“The purging continued subsequently,” he added. “Those who purged others were finally purged by other people, and that led to the collapse of the regime.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the civil party told the court he lived with Nuon Chea in Battambang province as a child.