Former low-level cadre Hou Mao spent much of his testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday contradicting himself, at times refuting statements he made the previous day, and occasionally refuting statements made just moments prior.
The source of confusion that caused Mao to rescind key aspects of his testimony remained unclear and parties even differed on whether he had fully recanted his most relevant piece of testimony: that defendant Khieu Samphan had been in favour of a policy of forced evacuation of cities well before the emptying of Phnom Penh.
“‘According to the position of Mr Khieu Samphan, he was in favour of the evacuation of the people. Hou Yun was against the evacuation, and Hu Nim was not in favour of evacuation of people either,’” said Samphan’s lawyer Anta Guisse, reading Mao’s testimony from Wednesday before asking whether he knew Hu Nim’s stance on evacuations.
“I did not know about Hu Nim’s position. What I stated earlier was about Hou Yun’s position,” Mao maintained.
Guisse continued to press Mao, re-reading his previous testimony detailing where he learned of Samphan’s favourable attitude toward forced evacuations.
When asked whether he had known Samphan’s position on evacuations, Mao replied: “No, I did not know his position. As I said, I knew the position of Mr Hou Yun, who addressed the gathering at that time.”
At that time, Mao – whose poor health and fatigue was a frequent subject of discussion – was ushered out of the courtroom for a brief break. Prosecutor Keith Raynor then requested the witness be asked to clarify whether he had denied knowing Samphan’s “position” on evacuations, or whether – with all the talk of “hierarchies” – he had denied knowing Samphan’s place within the revolution.
That clarification never came, however, with Guisse later responding that Mao “did not know Khieu Samphan’s position, nor that of Hu Nim, about the evacuation”.
“The witness did say certain things, and then the direct opposite, perhaps because he has forgotten, perhaps because he was confused, perhaps because there were leading questions,” Guisse said. “But when the witness answered my question . . . there was no lack of clarity.”