Son of Khmer Rouge Sector Secretary Returns to Testify at Tribunal

A former messenger and driver for senior Khmer Rouge officials made a virtual return to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Thursday to testify about the regime’s operations in Mondolkiri province, four years after he appeared as a witness in the first phase of Case 002.

Testifying via video link from Banteay Meanchey province, Phan Van, 56, recalled childhood encounters with senior regime officials including Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the defendants in the second phase of the tribunal’s second trial.

Witness Phan Van testifies via video link before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. (ECCC)
Witness Phan Van testifies via video link before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday. (ECCC)

The son of Ta Ham, who would become a sector secretary under Pol Pot, Mr. Van was a messenger at the B-20 office in Kompong Cham province between 1970 and 1973, where his father was working at the time.

After his father was made secretary of Sector 105—present-day Mondolkiri—in 1973, Mr. Van worked as a decoder in the sector headquarters, dubbed K-17, until 1976, at which point he became his father’s driver until his murder in Phnom Penh in 1977.

Previous witnesses have said they were detained at K-17 following mass arrests of relatives and associates of Kham Phoen, the deputy sector secretary and a brother-in-law of Ta Ham. Kham Phoen was accused of his murder.

However, Mr. Van said he was not aware of the compound—one of three security centers that are currently the focus of the trial—being used as a prison when he worked there.

“I know that arrests happened, but I myself do not know that people were arrested and then detained at K-17. During the regime, it was widely known that certain individuals betrayed and were arrested, but I never saw it at K-17,” he said.

Asked about his father’s murder, Mr. Van said he did not believe claims that his uncle had been a Vietnamese spy and the killer.

“No one believed in that since Kham Phoen was related to my mother and the two individuals were working closely together during the resistance. So why would they kill each other?” he said.

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