CHAM witness Sos Rumly re-sumed testimony yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal after three months of delay brought about by a previous procedural issue.
Rumly, who during the Democratic Kampuchea period resided in Kampong Cham’s Kroch Chhmar district, testified on the implementation of policies targeting about 1,000 Cham Muslim minority families in Trea commune villages following the arrival of Khmer Rouge forces in 1970.
According to the witness, the Cham were allowed to worship and speak their language for several years following the takeover, but in 1974, the religious leadership was arrested.
“In 1974, Hakims [learned men] had been called to [the] commune office, they were arrested and detained at Kroch Chhmar security office; other village leaders were called and taken away … They were educated,” he said.
“Qurans … were taken to commune offices and they were destroyed,” Rumly continued, testifying that meetings were held informing villagers that religious worship was banned.
That same year, the local mosque was shut down, and later converted into a hospital by the regime, Rumly said.
Prior to adjournment, Rumly testified that he served as the commune chief’s clerk until 1978. At that time, he recalled, the commune chief was taken away and executed – ostensibly as part of an East Zone purge by the Southwest Zone. “About 30 black-clad forces came to my location and we decided to flee,” he said.
Earlier in the day, witness Thang Pal testified on the disappearance of three Vietnamese villagers from his hometown in Prey Veng province’s Svay Anthor district.
“After I got home, I noticed that the village was so quiet,” he said, describing the day of the disappearances.
Pal said that, afterwards, Lach Ni, the Khmer husband of a Vietnamese woman, “became mentally unstable, he went around the village crying and sobbing – that lasted for around a fortnight”.
Children of mixed marriages would also be “taken away” only if the mother was Vietnamese, Pal recalled hearing, corroborating prior testimony.
At the start of proceedings yesterday, the trial chamber discussed the submissions for additional witnesses and documents to the ongoing segment on the treatment of the Vietnamese, which was sharply opposed by the Khieu Samphan defence.
“The trial chamber needs to close this can of worms [of hearing] additional witnesses,” said Samphan defender Kong Sam Onn, who went on to allege that judge Jean-Marc Lavergne has favoured the prosecution, which he characterised as “careless”.
The prosecution defended their request by pointing out that many witnesses had been unavailable at various points in the past.