A former Khmer Rouge cadre who told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia that he escaped from Phnom Penh’s Tuol Sleng prison was on Wednesday grilled on a number of claims, including that he could smell piles of decomposing bodies while stationed at the Kompong Chhnang airport construction site.
Chan Man, a former messenger for Khmer Rouge air force commander Sou Met, was questioned by defense teams for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—who are on trial for crimes including genocide —over his testimony that he could hear people being killed at night.
Under examination by Victor Koppe, defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, Mr. Man conceded that he could not be sure that the screams had been human. “I could hear the sounds of screaming; I am not sure if it was the sounds of people or the sounds of animals. Later on, I went past that location [and] I could smell the decomposed bodies,” he said.
Asked how he drew a link between the screams and the stench, the witness spoke of the site’s deadly nature.
“In that period…people would be refashioned if we didn’t adhere to the principles. After a few times [of] refashioning, if we did not deter, we would be transferred elsewhere and I could see group chiefs and unit chiefs disappear every two or three months,” Mr. Man said.
The witness was also quizzed over the reasons for his arrest, which he said led to him being sent to Tuol Sleng security center, where more than 12,000 people are thought to have been killed.
Mr. Man claimed he was arrested three days after joking with a cadre that he was transporting rice to “the enemy,” despite actually receiving orders from the deputy commander of Division 502 to bring the rice to soldiers nearby.
“But surely it was a misunderstanding? You could have told them immediately you had been given an oral order from the number two in Division 502? Why didn’t you tell them you had this direct order?” Mr. Koppe asked.
The witness reiterated that he did not know why he was arrested.