Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness: ‘I was a good person’

Witness: ‘I was a good person’

Witness: ‘I was a good person’

The former head of Cheang Tong commune reflected on questions of morality under the Khmer Rouge regime on her second and final day of testimony before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

“Personally, I believed I was good,” Khoem Boeun told the court. Once the assistant secretary of Tram Kak district, Boeun, 72, alias Yeay Boeun, still wears her black hair cropped above her chin in the radical communist regime’s fashion.

Goodness, she explained, when pressed by Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe, referred to her ability to organise the people in her commune, and to provide them with food. Boeun claimed she even sporadically hid rice in pagodas to provide for her commune, though this violated instruction from the upper echelons.

“I never sanctioned or disciplined anyone who stole food,” she said, explaining that thieves were merely “re-educated” and told: “‘If you were hungry, I myself was also hungry.’”

Boeun told the court that while people grew ill from malnourishment, no one in her community ever died from starvation.

“I had generosity” she said, adding, “of course I cannot recall every event”.

Boeun also claimed she had never acted as a messenger for the regime nor issued arrest orders. Documents requesting militia to make arrests were presented in court, and while her name was written at the bottom of these pages, Boeun said others had acted in her stead as she was frequently either pregnant, caring for her children or ill.

Boeun was also questioned about references to kam tick, meaning “to smash or destroy”, on several documents also bearing her name, but said the word meant only to “cleanse” – by “getting rid of old ideas or concepts and building a new one” – or to “arrest”.

The witness was also pressed on the 12 revolutionary principles she had lived by during the regime. But Boeun claimed she could no longer recall their scope, though she affirmed that sex outside marriage was considered immoral, as was drinking alcohol.

The trial will resume with a new witness on Thursday.

Correction: Due to a misunderstanding, a previous version of this story said that witness Khoem Boeun told the court she frequently cared for children, pregnant women and the ill. In fact, she said had frequently been pregnant, caring for her own children or ill. The Post apologises for any confusion.


  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • PM warns party of complacency in leaked audio

    Two leaked audio tapes, purportedly of Prime Minister Hun Sen speaking candidly to senior officials, appear to hint at insecurities within the ruling party over the controversial dissolution of the country’s main opposition, with the premier warning that the party’s “struggle” didn’t

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially

  • Music festival promises big stage, has even bigger hopes

    With a line-up of local and international artists, and a massive outdoor venue booked on Koh Pich, or Diamond Island, Saturday’s Diamond Moon Festival is aiming to showcase contemporary musical and artistic talents at a scale rarely seen in the Kingdom. [img] But the