A witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday denied that he was chief of the Kraing Ta Chan security center after communist forces overran Takeo province, contradicting his own previous statements and the testimony of an ex-prisoner.
Phann Chhen, who went by the alias “Ta Chhen,” said he was a village chief and later a commune chief in Takeo’s Tram Kak district in charge of education after the “liberation” of the province by the Pol Pot-led forces but had no influence over Kraing Ta Chan village when it was turned into a prison in 1973.
Mr. Chhen’s claims contradicted evidence he gave in previous interviews, statements made by a former Tram Kak district chief, and testimony from civil party Soy Sen, who said Mr. Chhen oversaw Kraing Ta Chan until 1975 when he was replaced by Ta An.
“Soy Sen would never be able to be in a position to make such a statement,” Mr. Chhen said, adding that he once saved the life of Mr. Sen, who says he was incarcerated between 1974 and 1979.
“Soy Sen was too young to know anything at the time and he survived due to my pity for him and my authority in the commune,” he said.
Mr. Sen told the court earlier this month that Mr. Chhen attempted to buy his silence after the fall of the regime and suggested that he pretend they were both prisoners.
Mr. Chhen also refuted Mr. Sen’s claim that he was present during the ex-inmate’s interrogation, claiming he only witnessed Ta An and another cadre named Phy torturing prisoners from a distance.
The witness—who consulted his duty counsel on numerous occasions when faced with quotes contradicting his testimony—claimed that his life was saved by Ta Mok, the regime’s Southwest Zone commander, after learning that a local secretary named Soam planned to kill him for helping secure the release of 40 prisoners at Kraing Ta Chan.
“Ta Mok helped me because I made direct contact because I knew him. I sought his help and the person who was about to kill me was Soam but with Ta Mok’s intervention, my life was spared,” he said.
Mr. Chhen’s testimony in the second phase of Case 002—in which Pol Pot’s former deputy Nuon Chea and former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan are facing charges including genocide—continues Wednesday.