Witness recalls splinter group

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Toat Toeun gives his testimony at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday during the appeal proceedings in Case 002/01 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC

Witness recalls splinter group

On the third day of hearings in defendants’ appeal of Case 002/01, an estranged foster son of purged Northwest Zone chief Ros Nhim told the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Supreme Court Chamber yesterday that he mobilised troops to rebel against the “abusive” Democratic Kampuchea regime in order to survive.

NuonChea and Khieu Samphan, the two most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge, are appealing last August’s guilty verdict for crimes against humanity.

The appellants’ case rests partly on the existence of opposing factions within the Khmer Rouge that later led to the mass carnage and devastation in the regime.

Witness Toat Toeun, who rose from being a messenger to being the Northwest Zone’s deputy chief in charge of ammunition, weaponry and logistics in 1975, affirmed the presence of at least one of these rebel groups.

“My main role was to gather around 2,000 weapons seized from Lon Nol soldiers and hide them in a bamboo forest,” Toeun said.

“But I also used the weapons later on to fight Pol Pot . . . because I was arrested by mistake twice in 1978, so I made a decision I could not work for Pol Pot.”

He appealed for help from his foster father Nhim, who was later purged for allegedly questioning the Communist Party of Kampuchea’s stance on agriculture and foreign aid.

Toeun’s plea, however, fell on deaf ears as Nhim informed him that the Central Committee was behind the arrests.

“I told him that from then on, we’re no longer foster father and son. I decided to defect [from] the Angkar . . . because I could no longer bear the situation; people were being called to study sessions in Phnom Penh and they disappear.

I explained that Angkar wanted to eat their own children.”

Toeun started mobilising troops and arming them with the hidden weapons.

At first, he only had nine combatants, until later on, when mobile unit leaders and unit chiefs started to join their cause.

The witness didn’t say how many combatants he was able to gather in the end, but said that his goal was to have at least 2,000 soldiers on his side.

In 1979, Toeun’s group aligned with the Vietnamese-backed United Front upon its arrival in Battambang.

“At the outset, I thought it was only my troops that would revolt, but there were actually other forces who wanted too as well.”

Toeun’s testimony ended yesterday. Case 002/02 hearings will resume on July 27.

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