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Witness ‘did not arrest anybody’, court hears

A Khmer Rouge tribunal witness yesterday denied people were arrested and killed under his tenure as a commune chief in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district in 1978, despite being shown interrogation and execution records to the contrary.

Resuming his testimony for a second day, witness Nut Nov said he worked “very hard” to improve living conditions as head of Sre Ronong commune and that, while he was in charge, no one was sent for “re-education”, which often meant execution, the chamber heard.

“When I was [commune chief], I did not arrest anybody,” said Nov, an official in three Tram Kak district communes during Democratic Kampuchea, adding that although some people “disappeared” from worksites, they were under the jurisdiction of district authorities.

However, prosecutor Vincent de Wilde presented Nov documents from Kraing Ta Chan security centre, written during his tenure, which included prisoners from Sre Ronong.

Among them were soldiers of the former Lon Nol regime, who were “smashed”, and a villager who, according to the communist’s report, was interrogated because he “devalued our cause” by criticising insufficient food rations and saying the cassava bread “seems like burnt cake”.

As on Friday, Nov – who claimed his son disappeared during the period – blamed his predecessor in the commune, who oversaw purges and was removed after disobeying orders and committing “cruelty”, he said.

Confronted with previous testimony by civil party Chou Koemlan stating “everyone was afraid of [the witness]”, Nov responded:

“I never punished or never reprimanded anyone, I had a loud voice and I always encouraged people to work hard so that we could solve our livelihood . . . people were afraid of me because of my voice,” he said, later adding he was “kind and gentle”.

Nov said he underreported rice yields to his superiors to retain more food for locals, amid frequent food shortages.

After the regime fell, Nov said he was held for six years at Vietnamese-run facility for “refashioning” people, and then again became a commune official.

The trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan continues today.

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