Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer, Victor Koppe, sought to unravel the details of an alleged plot to topple Pol Pot yesterday, questioning a witness about the names of soldiers and their strategies for overthrowing the Khmer Rouge leader.
Internal strife within the Khmer Rouge has been the foundation of Nuon Chea’s defence, which argues that numerous competing factions committed a range of atrocities without the endorsement of their top leadership. Chea and his co-defendant Khieu Samphan are both on trial for various crimes against humanity attributed to the regime they helped lead.
Taking the stand yesterday was witness 2TCW-1037, who began working for the Northwest Zone’s economics and logistics division in 1973, eventually rising to the position of deputy chief attached to Division 2.
“You said you obtained information that both divisions had planned to fight back against Pol Pot. Do you have any concrete details as to what these two divisions were supposed to be doing against Pol Pot?” Koppe asked the witness.
“Their plans were not materialised yet; they did not have a clear network or structure to materialise the plan, and when their plan was found out, they were purged continuously,” the witness responded.
The witness said he was unable to recall the names of the people who told him about the coup plot, but claimed that many had said the plans were the reason some of the regime’s top leadership were purged post-1977.
He also revealed that a colleague named Ta Soun told him that Ta Vanh, the chief of military staff in the Northwest Zone until his arrest in 1977, had illegally created and armed his own military force.
“Do you recall details? What did Soun tell you about what Vanh had done exactly?” Koppe pressed. “Did he give you the location of weapons being hidden?”
But the witness was unable to provide further details about the plan or who was behind it, adding only that another colleague, Ta Keu, had warned him to be mindful of the fluctuating political climate.
“The Northwest people were arresting their own people, and then the Southwest people began arresting the Northwest people,” the witness said.
He did, however, testify to seeing Ta Nhim and Sao Pim, two of the Khmer Rouge leaders alleged to have turned against Pol Pot and Nuon Chea, travelling together by boat on the Tonle Sap river.