A former child soldier and purported “nephew” of infamous Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok offered at-times meandering testimony regarding alleged internal purges at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
The witness, who was referred to only as 2-TCW-976 because of ongoing investigations into cases 003 and 004, stumbled through the prosecution’s questions about purges in the regime’s North West Zone, often giving confusing and contradictory responses, particularly with regards to dates and his own role in the regime.
The witness joined the revolution in 1972 as a “rank-and-file soldier” when he was just 12 years old, according to his previous statements to the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) and the tribunal’s co-investigating judges. In 1973, he joined the militia in the South West Zone under Ta Mok before he was transferred to Battambang.
“I heard other forces … [say] that the North West Zone people betrayed and they needed our forces to be there,” the witness testified yesterday. “However, when my force had arrived, I did not see it was true.”
While he said he did not see any purges of senior cadre, he heard rumours of disappearances.
The witness also testified he had never seen Ta Mok – also known by his nickname, “the Butcher” – murder anyone. “I heard people tell one another about the killings, but I did not see him kill anyone,” he said.
At one point, the court diverted to a closed session, after which the defence teams decided not to pose further questions to the witness. Defence lawyer Victor Koppe said prior to the closed court session that he had planned to ask the witness about current National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, as well as rebellions in the North West and East Zones, because the witness had divulged details on the subject in prior statements.
Prior to the witness taking the stand, historian Henri Locard concluded his expert testimony after briefly referring to the questioning style of defence lawyer Anta Guisse as “cold torture” – a method employed by interrogators at the regime’s S-21 prison.