The foster son of Ruos Nhim, the secretary of the Northwest Zone of Democratic Kampuchea, who Nuon Chea’s defense team claims spearheaded a rival faction seeking to overthrow the Pol Pot regime, told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Monday that he had no knowledge of any such internal plot.
Toat Toeun, who is now a brigadier general in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said he knew Ruos Nhim—who was purged in 1978—from his childhood, before he joined the Khmer Rouge following Lon Nol’s overthrow of Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. Mr. Toeun went on to become a high-ranking official in the Northwest Zone.
By calling Mr. Toeun to the stand, defense lawyers for the regime’s “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea had been hoping that he would shed light on alternate factions within the Pol Pot regime in order to show that it was not as monolithic as described by prosecutors. In a filing in December, Nuon Chea’s legal team said that Mr. Toeun claimed to have stockpiled 20,000 weapons taken from Lon Nol soldiers starting in 1975, then used them to lead a band of 2,000 soldiers in an uprising against Pol Pot and Nuon Chea in 1978.
“His evidence accordingly corroborates the Defence’s submissions, advanced during closing submissions and ignored in the Judgement, that leading figures within the Northwest and East zone[s] formed a united opposition faction against Pol Pot,” they wrote.
However, questioned in court Monday by Nuon Chea’s lawyer Victor Koppe, Mr. Toeun admitted to having stockpiled the 20,000 weapons, but denied they were hidden in preparation for a coup against the leadership.
“These weapons were remaining from the war time and they were …used by the enemy and I also used these weapons to fight against Pol Pot later on,” Mr. Toeun said.
Asked by Mr. Koppe whether the original intention was to hide the weapons so that Ruos Nhim could carry out an armed rebellion against Pol Pot soon after the fall of Phnom Penh, the witness denied the claim and said he only took up arms against the leadership after he was arrested twice in 1978.
“Were there plans at one point in time to assassinate Pol Pot to sabotage the revolution by spreading chaos both internally, externally…for instance conducting a phony war with Thailand ultimately to stage a coup d’etat? Do you know whether such plans existed in the second half of ’75?” Mr. Koppe asked.
“No, I was not aware of that,” the witness replied.
Mr. Toeun’s testimony closed three days of appeal hearings in Case 002/01 against Nuon Chea and Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan. An appeal judgment is not expected to be rendered until next year.