Witness Soy Doeun, a former member of the so-called “long-sword militia”, gave testimony clouded by uncertainty over the arrests of ethnic Chams carried out by the group in villages near the Wat Au Trakuon security centre at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
Doeun testified that he had been told that “no single Cham shall be spared”, but throughout the day, claimed to not remember or not know the details of arrests, of the chain of command or of alleged killings taking place.
Previous witness testimony indicates that following the arrival of Southwest Zone cadres to the area in 1977, the long sword militia was tasked with identifying and arresting members of the Cham ethnic minority and taking them to Au Trakuon, a pagoda-turned-security-centre where as many as 30,000 people are thought to have perished.
Doeun, upon questioning by prosecutor Dale Lysak, testified that in addition to arresting Cham, instructions were also given to arrest former Lon Nol soldiers as well as “new people”, or those recently evacuated from urban centres.
“I simply followed orders to make arrests,” he said. As for the Cham, he added, “we arrested both parents and their children”.
Alleging that the order was given by the commune chief – a woman named Pheap who “told us that the order came from the upper echelon” – Doeun professed ignorance as to what that meant. He later clarified that Pheap was the wife of district committee chief Kan and had attended “a meeting at the upper level”.
“I heard of the plan that no Cham, no single Cham, shall be spared” from Pheap, he said.
Doeun went on to testify that “I made arrests of Cham people one time only.”
Recounting that the arrestees were delivered to security personnel at the gates of Au Trakuon, Doeun claimed his group carried out no killings, only arrests.
Upon questioning by judge Claudia Fenz as to how he knew the arrested people were killed, Doeun said, “I did not hear any screams, because I was based far from it; I heard it from the security guards.”
“They said the killing happened in Au Trakuon pagoda.”
Doeun gave ambiguous answers as to how many people in his commune were arrested and killed, and claimed that his unit of about 14 only arrested two or three people.