The former head of Takeo province’s Tram Kak district yesterday rejected previous witness testimony that he ordered purges of ex-members of the Lon Nol regime after the US-backed republic was toppled by the Khmer Rouge in 1975
During his third day testifying at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, Pech Chim disputed testimony by previous witness Riel Son that he dealt out orders to target the former regime workers prior to Phnom Penh’s fall.
He acknowledged that there was a meeting after the evacuation about distinguishing ex-officials and soldiers from the April 17 people, but said that was chaired by Ta Mok’s daughter, a woman named Khom, and didn’t lead to killings.
“I have never witnessed the executions, I have never ordered [them] myself but I am aware that there were executions,” he said.
Chim also “categorically rejected” claims made by a previous witness that he ordered the execution of 90 Khmer Krom workers sent to him by Southwest Zone leader and Chim’s distant relative Ta Mok, who, according to the witness, was upset at the loss of so many labourers.
“Never ever Ta Mok would send a group of people to me,” he said of the allegations, which stated he ordered the execution because the workers were stealing.
Chim said in August 1978 all zones received an order from Central Zone secretary Ke Pok to “stop the killing”.
As killings turned from Khmer Rouge external enemies to those within the party ranks, Chim told the court, comrades turned on each other.
“I learned of that situation, then I thought to myself, ‘why did they argue with each other’. Then I found out later on that whenever they arrested someone they would implicate others in the party and then they would arrest them,” he said.
Among clashing cadres were Ta Mok and his deputy secretary Chou Chet, alias Ta Sy. The conflict led to the splitting of the South West Zone to form a new Western Zone, over which the deputy secretary then took control.