Witness Denies He Was in Cham-Killing Militia

At the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday, Tay Koemhun was the second witness to directly refute accusations made by Sen Srun, who testified Monday and Tuesday about the execution of Cham prisoners at the Wat Au Trakuon Security Center.

Mr. Koemhun, 65, a rice farmer from Kompong Cham province’s Sambuor Meas village, where all three of this week’s witnesses are from, was accused by Mr. Srun of being a deputy in the “long sword group,” the name for the Khmer Rouge militia tasked with arresting local Cham people. In court Wednesday, Mr. Koemhun repeatedly denied this.

“I categorically reject the statement made by Seng Srun,” he said.

He then told the court about a recent meeting with Mr. Srun.

“One day he came to my house and he said he was going to Phnom Penh…. Then he asked me if I was a member of the long swords, and I told him to be careful as I hadn’t been a member,” Mr. Koemhun explained.

“I clarified the matter with him. I will go and clarify the matter with him when I return.”

Judge Nil Nonn warned Mr. Koemhun to be mindful of the law.

“Please do not use any violence when you confront Mr. Seng Srun.”

On Tuesday, witness Samrit Muy, 68, also denied accusations made against him by Mr. Srun, who had testified that Mr. Muy had held a leadership position in the same militia. Mr. Muy explained that he had been a militia member but not a leader.

At times confusing and contradictory, Mr. Koemhun testified about his experiences under the Khmer Rouge. He told the court that on two occasions between 1975 and 1979 Khmer Rouge militia members had pointed guns at him: once when a cadre accused him of being Cham.

“I was so afraid at that time. I was even [relieving] myself in the field,” he said.

Mr. Koemhun denied any involvement with the arrests and murder of Cham at Wat Au Trakuon, explaining that the extent of the killing only became apparent after 1979.

“Villagers went to see the grave pits…. I didn’t look inside the pits, as the stench was rather strong. It was the stench of corpses.”

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