Pol Pot’s nephew Seng Lytheng testified at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, shedding light on the central leadership’s interactions with lower-level officials under the Democratic Kampuchea regime.
Lytheng was part an elite unit assigned in 1974 to guard defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, as well as the late Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, prior to the fall of Phnom Penh.
Lytheng confirmed previous testimony that Pol Pot – officially the head of the Communist Party of Kampuchea – worked intimately with Chea and Samphan, meeting with them multiple times a day and taking most meals together during the period leading up to their capture of the capital. After the Khmer Rouge took the city, Lytheng continued to guard the four men in Phnom Penh at the regime’s K-1 office.
The chamber is currently hearing testimony relating to the personal accountability of defendants Chea and Samphan for crimes against humanity allegedly committed under their regime. The defence has argued that the command structure of the Khmer Rouge was not centralised and cohesive enough for the two men to be personally held responsible for crimes that occurred in other zones.
Lytheng, however, testified that zone secretaries sometimes came to K-1 to meet with the regime leaders at the invitation of Pol Pot. The witness recalled seeing powerful commanders like Sao Phim, Ta Mok and Ke Pauk.
He also testified that he took letters directly from Pol Pot to Sao Phim on three occasions. “I do not know the content because the letters were sealed, but it was Pol Pot who gave me the letters,” Lytheng said. He went on to theorise the letters must have involved “important affairs”, which is why he was entrusted with delivering them.
Lytheng also testified that he stood guard at study sessions led by Pol Pot and Nuon Chea where the two leaders spoke of espionage and how to deal with internal enemies. “These subjects were heard through loudspeakers, so I could hear . . . part of the content of the study sessions although I stood guard outside.” Lytheng said.
Lytheng also said that he delivered gifts to Sao Phim from Pol Pot. He said the two men were on good terms, despite the fact that Phim was later accused of being a traitor and killed himself to avoid capture.
“Both of them were close to each other,” the witness said. Pol Pot, he maintained, “was not a brutal person. He was a polite, gentle person.”