Ta Mok, the famously brutal chief of the Khmer Rouge’s Southwest Zone, was “loved” by the people, but his subordinates never dared question his authority, a messenger for the regime told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Tuesday.
The witness, identified only as 2-TWC-1005 due to his involvement in ongoing investigations at the tribunal, said he joined the revolution in 1973 and became a messenger in Takeo province before being transferred to the battlefront in Kratie province.
Asked about Ta Mok, who was nicknamed “The Butcher” and passed away in a military hospital while awaiting trial in 2006, the witness said he was a powerful and respected commander in Takeo, then part of the Southwest Zone.
“Ta was able to be in charge of everyone, be they soldiers or ordinary people,” said the witness, who was testifying in relation to internal purges in Case 002, in which the regime’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea, and head of state, Khieu Samphan, are on trial for crimes including genocide.
“Soldiers and people loved him, to my observation…. Whatever he said was liked by the soldiers,” he said.
But despite his popularity, few ever challenged Ta Mok, the former messenger said, including Ta Saom, the chief of an administrative unit known as Sector 13.
“Whenever Ta made mention about a reshuffle of cadres, Uncle Saom would be silent and didn’t dare to protest,” he said. “I was a messenger located outside of the meetings venue with the defense guard. I could hear the content of the discussion. Whatever was decided by Ta would never be protested by Uncle Saom.”
The witness also explained that editorials in “Revolutionary Flag,” the regime’s magazine, would warn members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea about threats from internal enemies.
“When we joined the party, we had to be afraid of the party and we had to search for KGB or CIA agents. Everybody was afraid of everybody else, and we did not trust one another,” he said. “Everyone was so afraid of the content of the magazine.”
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