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Former monks recall defrocking under Khmer Rouge

The protected Witness 2-TCW-913 testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC
The protected Witness 2-TCW-913 testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Former monks recall defrocking under Khmer Rouge

Two former monks who were forced to sacrifice their beliefs at the altar of the Khmer Rouge’s hardline ideals told the tribunal yesterday that they narrowly escaped execution.

The first witness, identified only as 2-TCW-913 in order to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, said he became a monk in 1973 but was forced to defrock as part of the Khmer Rouge’s social project to abolish religion.

The witness testified that after 1975 he was sent to Borei Keila, where senior leaders including Case 002/02 defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan were said to conduct study sessions.

He was first tasked with raising pigs and poultry but was later made a cook, a job that required him to taste-test the food for poison.

“I was never poisoned or felt ill . . . It was a precaution, because if any of the guests died, it means we would die, too,” he said.

The witness was later rounded up as an East Zone “enemy” and forced to endure hard labour. “We were called to be ‘tempered’,” he said. “To be tempered means to make us . . . become weak.”

In protest of the scarcity of rice, he and 50 others arrested their superior and took him to a nearby office. They were then summoned to a meeting where the situation became “chaotic” and Khmer Rouge cadre began to tie their hands with blue scarves.

For 13 days and nights, they were tortured. Then they were taken to a mountain to be killed. “I was hit by a few clubs on my head but somehow I survived,” he said. He found another survivor and they untied each others’ bonds.

“We used the mud to put it on our wounds . . . I had to drink my own urine in order to survive,” the witness said.

In the afternoon session, a civil party identified only as 2-TCCP-235 said he, too, was defrocked by the Khmer Rouge and pressed into military service in the push to take Phnom Penh in 1975.

Fearing the retribution he knew Lon Nol’s army would face, he immediately began looking for his elder brother – a pilot in the former Khmer Republic – to warn him to don civilian clothes and claim to be a worker.

The civil party said he was briefly suspected of being a traitor and was tortured with electric shocks, but avoided near-certain execution by convincing his torturers he was unwavering in his allegiance.

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