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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-guard testifies on clash between zones

Members of the audience listen to a witness giving their testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan earlier this week.
Members of the audience listen to a witness giving their testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan earlier this week. ECCC

Ex-guard testifies on clash between zones

Testimony from former Khmer Rouge soldier and Trapeang Thma Dam guard Lat Suoy continued yesterday, with the prosecution and defence counsels occasionally butting heads as details about worksite operations and the purges of Northwest cadres were discussed.

Details emerged about the arrival of Southwest Zone cadres, who promptly reduced food rations and increased the length of work shifts.

“We worked days and nights and were given only half a can of rice per day as ration”, Suoy said

He further testified of seeing workers die of disease or exhaustion, and also placed Khmer Rouge leadership at the dam.

Without naming any leaders, he described inspections from “Angkar” every three to four months.

“Nobody was allowed close to them,” he continued, saying people were told “not to make eye contact”.

As discussion moved to the purge of Northwest Zone cadres, Suoy said he had heard discussion of stockpiling weapons in the Kon Klaing forest to counterattack Southwest Zone cadres.

Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe – whose team has sought to prove the existence of rival factions within the Khmer Rouge – objected to what he felt was a “textbook leading question” from prosecutor Dale Lysak on whether gathering weapons was a rebel plot or self defence.

“Mr Koppe has always led witnesses with the assumption there was a plot,” Lysak shot back. The objection was overruled.

Suoy claimed that stockpiling occurred before the arrival of Southwest cadres and that there was “friendship between the Northwestern and Eastern Zone”.

The zones’ respective leaderships met after accusations of treason and the murder of a Chinese diplomat were levelled by the Southwest Zone.

Following the arrest of Ta Val, the mobile work unit commander at the dam, Suoy said he and fellow cadres also began to fear arrest, though Koppe questioned why Suoy was not relieved at Ta Val’s arrest.

“Were you yourself, like Ta Val, a vicious killer?” Koppe asked.

The question drew another objection from Lysak, who said the line of inquiry was “based on the absurd premise that Pol Pot and Nuon Chea were arresting Ta Val because he was a vicious killer”. The objection was ultimately sustained.

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