Frail and white-haired Oeun Tan, a former messenger and bodyguard of Brother No 1 Pol Pot, named ex-president Khieu Samphan as a frequent participant in upper-level Khmer Rouge meetings in his testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
The testimony seems to directly contradict statements by Khieu Samphan and his defence, who have repeatedly tried to downplay the role of the former head of state in the Democratic Kampuchea regime, going so far as to call his office little more than “window dressing”.
Oeun Tan, an illiterate, ethnic minority villager who sometimes travelled with Pol Pot on official business during the regime, told prosecutors at the Khmer Rouge tribunal that Khieu Samphan had met with other high-ranking Khmer Rouge cadres on a near-weekly basis even before the official establishment of Democratic Kampuchea.
“I knew Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, but I did not know others,” he said, describing early meetings between the revolutionary leaders.
After the fall of Phnom Penh, said Oeun Tan, Khieu Samphan was privy not only to the regularly scheduled monthly or bi-weekly meetings with zone and sector committees, but also to what he called “special meetings”, smaller ad hoc meetings between the leadership and unknown officials.
In his pre-trial statement, read in court by co-prosecutor Tarik Abdulhak, Oeun Tan, who joined the revolution hoping to remedy his illiteracy, said that the special meetings “took place in cases of necessity to resolve food supplies and put up dams”.
“I was told by [Chhim Sam Aok alias] Pang that today the meeting would be convened as a special one, and that Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea would be the attendees,” Oeun Tan said when asked how he knew about the meetings.
An employee of K-7 – the Khmer Rouge’s communications office – Oeun Tan also testified to the link in communications between upper-level party members, saying that all telegrams received by Pol Pot were then passed along to Nuon Chea.
Oeun Tan was also Office S-71 leader Pang’s direct subordinate.
In his testimony he described his worry when his boss disappeared in 1978, and his own efforts to conceal it.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart White at [email protected]