Undeterred by numerous objections at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday, Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe yesterday continued to call attention to the alleged connection between current government figures – former East Zone cadres, including Prime Minister Hun Sen – and the suppression of a Cham revolt.
The line of questioning, put to civil party Sos Ponyamin, came as the court continued to hear evidence on charges of genocide pertaining to the Khmer Rouge’s treatment of the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority.
It came after Tuesday’s proceedings in which Koppe was prevented from presenting a Human Rights Watch report implicating Hun Sen in the suppression of the Cham uprising.
“We’re talking about atrocities being committed by East Zone forces including possibly the prime minister of this country and a senator [Ouk Bunchhoeun], so I think it is a very fair question that I am asking,” Koppe said, responding to renewed objections by the prosecution.
Ponyamin, himself an ethnic Cham, rebuffed most of the questions, often claiming ignorance, prompting Koppe to ask if he was “afraid to testify”, which Ponyamin denied.
The crime sites covered this week are among the few located in the Eastern Zone, Koppe said after adjournment, constituting a rare opportunity to inculpate certain government figures who formerly served as cadres in that area.
In the afternoon session, Seng Kuy, an ethnic Khmer who bore witness to Cham persecution in his Kampong Cham village of Angkor Ban, recalled his experience when the Khmer Rouge took control in 1975.
“I was a slave among slaves and I was assigned to plough the fields and do rice farming until the end of the regime,” he said.
Kuy recounted transfers of Cham to his village, noting that, at first, families came together, but the men were later separated and taken away, leaving only women and children.
Confirming prior testimony that Cham had to abandon “distinct Cham dress”, their religion and language, Kuy told the court of the day the surviving Cham were taken to the local pagoda-turned-security complex.
Kuy, following orders he did “not dare to refuse”, transported the victims by ox cart to their unknown fate, although Kuy said he “never [saw] a single one” again.
The orders allegedly came from a feared cadre, Run, also known as ‘the butcher’ or ‘the executioner’, because he killed people”.
Kuy said that after the regime, “Run was chopped to death” by angry villagers.
Prior to adjournment, Koppe indicated his team would not be questioning Kuy today.