Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Key witness at KRT changes story on stand

Key witness at KRT changes story on stand

Witness 2-TCW-1029 testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday. ECCC
Witness 2-TCW-1029 testifies before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday. ECCC

Key witness at KRT changes story on stand

A key witness for the defence of Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan proved an unexpected stumbling block at yesterday’s hearings at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal.

Souy Sao, 60, was expected to testify to having a role in a planned coup to overthrow Pol Pot with help from Vietnam. The defence had argued that this was evidence of a legitimate threat to the Khmer Rouge leadership that provided context to the purges of cadres deemed as traitors.

Ultimately, though, the witness offered a muddied portrayal of events. In 2005, Sao had told investigators from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) that he had attended a secret meeting during the Khmer Rouge regime at which he was tasked with transporting a truck of weapons – which, he had said, was part of the coup plan concocted by Ta Oeun, the commander of Division 310.

Yet when questioned in court by the prosecution, Sao backpedalled on key details, despite insisting that his 2005 statement to DC-Cam was correct and truthful: he told the court that he had not attended a secret meeting; had never transported weapons for a coup; and had never met defendant Khieu Samphan.

However, he was able to tell the defence what had happened to Oeun. “He was arrested . . . he staged a coup at the time,” he said of his former division commander. “He wanted to topple Pol Pot’s regime.”

Nuon Chea’s defence lawyer Victor Koppe noted that a previously unnamed witness had testified that Ta Oeun was “in the same clique with [current Prime Minister] Hun Sen”.

And Koppe asked Sao what he had meant when, in his statement, he had replied to a question about the possible benefits of the trial by telling DC-Cam’s investigators: “I mean only Hun Sen’s cliques have taken all the lost property in the Pol Pot regime.”

Koppe then withdrew the question following objections that it was “outside the scope” of the trial.

Sao also told the court that although Ouen had been arrested, ordinary combatants like himself were not.

That drew a response from prosecutor Dale Lysak who pointed out that, according to prison lists from S-21 prison, Sao’s Division 310, “was one of the most heavily purged organisations” in the regime.

“Were you not aware that hundreds of your fellow combatants from Division 310 were arrested and disappeared?” Lysak asked.

Sao replied he had little knowledge of their disappearances.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four

  • US' Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines arrive

    The first batch of 455,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the US touched down in Phnom Penh on the morning of July 30. They are part of the total 1,060,100 doses the US has pledged to provide to Cambodia through the World Health Organisation-led (

  • Governor: Covid subsides in capital

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the Covid-19 situation in the capital’s 14 districts has eased, with only two districts still recording a high number of infections. “Transmission cases in all districts are dropping, though they are relatively higher Meanchey and Por Sen Chey.