The brother-in-law of former high ranking Khmer Rouge official Ta Mok denied holding leading positions in the Democratic Kampuchea regime at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, despite significant evidence to the contrary.
New witness Neang Ouch, alias Ta San, rejected claims he was district secretary in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district in 1977 and 1978.
“I was not an important cadre,” the 72-year-old testified after being read a passage by Khmer Rouge scholar Ben Kiernan identifying him as a “leading CPK official” in Southwest Zone secretary Ta Mok’s “carefully placed” family network.
“I was an assistant to the district in the field of building dams, digging canals and working in the rice fields, and that was from 1975 to late 1978.”
Ouch – a teacher who joined the Khmer Rouge after Takeo province was “liberated” in 1970 – also refuted claims he was a district committee member in Koh Andet before moving to Leay Bor cooperative in Tram Kak.
He said he was transferred from Koh Andet by Ta Mok, his wife’s elder brother, after being accused of having sex with a woman, considered a “moral offence”, which he denied.
“Ta Mok told me I had been reported, that I was playful or mischievous with my hands, and for that reason he transferred me to lend assistance to those in Tram Kak . . . in order to refashion myself,” he said.
But international co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian refused to accept the witness’s claims he wasn’t a leading cadre, citing evidence including a statement by Case 004 defendant Im Chaem naming “San” as her deputy in Koh Andet, and several witness statements identifying “Ta San” as Tram Kak district secretary.
Ouch, after being read Cambodia’s Perjury Law, insisted the witnesses were either “confused” or “made a mistake”.
Despite denying an official role, Ouch recalled taking foreign delegations – including Swedish journalists and a Chinese businessman – to see “model homes” and “model rice fields”.
Shown several documents signed “Ta San” ordering the arrest and interrogation of people, Ouch, acknowledged his name but said he didn’t know the handwriting.
One such note ordered Kraing Ta Chan security centre chief Ta An to detain and “sweep clean” mothers with young children.
Asked whether “sweeping clean” meant execution, Ouch said he would answer when the hearing resumes today after consulting his lawyer.