A former sector and district cadre in Kroch Chmmar implicated defendant Nuon Chea in the purges of cadres and ethnic Vietnamese in present-day Kampong Cham and Tbong Khmum provinces in his testimony before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
Witness Ban Seak arrived to the area late during the regime, following the purges of North Zone cadres from the area, and became a deputy chief of public works.
“Upon my arrival, the purges were already done . . . security personnel had already been purged and it was not long before the entry of Vietnamese troops,” he said.
Throughout the day, Seak maintained he did not witness killings first-hand, only learning about alleged atrocities from fellow comrades.
“I had no idea about purges” he said.
Seak also implied that the regime’s persecution of ethnic Cham Muslims – whose alleged genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge is currently being examined at the tribunal – was not racially motivated.
“The Khmer people and the Cham people were in the same boat. I lost two of my siblings; if people were accused . . . regardless of their race, they would be arrested and killed,” Seak said.
The defence repeatedly interrupted the prosecution and civil party lawyers throughout the day with observations and objections, in an apparent attempt to stall questioning.
Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe at one point made a general objection to the “tsunami of Case 004 documents admitted“ as evidence to current case 002/02, as it left little time to prepare for proceedings.
Koppe noted that many of the documents were still awaiting translation, and that his prior request to halt proceedings in the Cham segment for one week was still yet to be ruled upon.
Prosecutor Dale Lysak rebutted that the current witness was admitted in 2014 and the relevant documents had been available “for many months now”.
The judges overruled Koppe’s objection, with trial chamber president Nil Nonn stating, “We face the same challenges as other parties do regarding reviewing or reading the disclosed documents”.
As the day progressed, Lysak pursued questioning that sought to link purges and killings to Chea and the central party.
Seak testified that his superiors travelled to Phnom Penh and met with Chea, who “advised people on the policy”.
He also maintained that orders for purges and killings “came down a chain of command”, and that authority for such activities was firmly in the upper echelon, above the authority of zone secretaries.
He also maintained that Chea had more influence than Pol Pot, the regime’s leader, on matters of policy.
Prior to adjournment, Seak confirmed witnessing corpses, some decapitated, floating in the river. Further probing revealed that he “heard Vietnamese people had been purged along the river”.
Allegations of genocide against the ethnic Vietnamese will be heard later in the trial.