Khmer Rouge cadre were not ordered to destroy incriminating documents created at the notorious S-21 prison, former list-maker Suos Thy told the court under cross examination at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal yesterday.
Thy, who compiled prisoner lists that today are used as evidence by the court, was probed by Nuon Chea’s international defence lawyer Victor Koppe about the chain of command and internal workings of the Tuol Sleng prison.
Thy recalled that prisoners were not sent out of the prison prior to Vietnamese troops storming Phnom Penh in January 1979, adding that he was unaware if sensitive documents were removed from S-21.
“Prior to the arrival of the Vietnamese in Phnom Penh, [my superior] Hor did not give me the instructions for the destruction of the documents,” Thy said. “So the documents were still there when the Vietnamese arrived.”
Thy appeared to recognise one of those documents – a large orange book – in footage from the 1981 East German documentary Die Angkar that was shown in the courtroom, saying it resembled a master-list he controlled.
Koppe also questioned Thy on issues of blood collection – while previous witnesses told the court S-21 prisoners were drained of blood as a form of torture, Koppe pointed to documents that mentioned blood collecting efforts to help wounded soldiers to recuperate.
But Thy, who was injured in battle and became a medic in 1975, said there was not the medicine or equipment for such a procedure on the battlefield at that time. “On this particular issue, I do not know, because it is beyond my duties,” he said.
“I was afraid of being arrested. I only focused on what I was assigned to do.”
Koppe continued to question Thy about the workings of the upper echelon at S-21 – details of which Thy claimed to know little. When confronted with a list of allegedly released prisoners from Division 920, dated November 26, 1977, Thy said “there was no list of released prisoners” at Tuol Sleng.
Thy also appeared to contradict statements from former S-21 chairman Kaing Geuk Eav, better known as Duch, that suggested Hor could order the execution of prisoners without consulting Duch first.
“Hor himself had no authority to kill anybody or any prisoner … Everything was dependent on Duch,” Thy said.
Duch, who in 2012 was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity, is due to return to the court to testify this week, following Thy’s testimony.