Conflicting accounts and contradictions marked the testimony of witness Tay Koemhun yesterday, as the Khmer Rouge tribunal continued to hear evidence on the alleged genocide of Cham Muslims under the regime.
Throughout the day Koemhun reversed his statements on multiple occasions and often appeared to not understand questions or know answers, prompting judge Jean-Marc Lavergne to pursue clarifying questions for nearly 15 minutes following the prosecution and civil party counsels’ examination.
Like previous witnesses, Koemhun told of the Khmer Rouge’s conversion of the Au Trakuon pagoda into a security centre, which was only 50 metres from his home. However, unlike previous witnesses, he maintained that he only saw “one” or “two” people being taken at a time, and never large groups.
Koemhun also denied being a part of the “long sword militia” – a group tasked with identifying and arresting Cham – a claim he later reversed when confronted by the prosecution with a written record of his interview with investigators.
He added, however, that he had been forced into service after first being mistaken for a Cham and threatened by cadres, and that he did not take part in any militia activities.
Previous witness Sen Srun, however, had testified that Koemhun had actually led the long sword militia in the arrest of some 200 Cham, an allegation Koemhun “categorically” denied, repeatedly, in a rambling response in which he also denied being “chief of security”.
In the same response, he recalled a recent conversation in which he told Srun, “You better be careful, I am not part of the long sword group.” Koemhun, for his part, accused Srun of having been a Khmer Rouge soldier and also of taking land from the pagoda after 1979 to build his home.
“I will go and talk to [Srun] after I go home after my testimony before this court. I have to confront him to bring out the truth,” he added.
The remark drew concern from prosecutor William Smith who, at the end of proceedings, requested trial chamber presdient Nil Nonn to advise the witness not to confront Srun as a “witness protection measure”.
Nonn told the court that Koemhun “is fully mature … However, Mr witness, please do not use any violence when you confront Mr Sen Srun”.
During his examination of the winess, Khieu Samphan defender Kong Sam Onn revealed that Koemhun had suffered “a problem with the brain”.
Asked to describe his symptoms, Koemhun replied, “I tend to forget where I placed my belongings.”