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KRT witness claims existence of Cham eradication plan

Witness Sos Kamri testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC
Witness Sos Kamri testifies at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh yesterday. ECCC

KRT witness claims existence of Cham eradication plan

Oknha Sos Kamri testified on his knowledge of a plan to exterminate the predominantly Muslim Cham ethnic minority yesterday as a witness before the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Kamri, who is president of the Highest Council for Islamic Religious Affairs and director of the Cambodia Islamic Institute, testified following months-long efforts by the trial chamber to compel him to come, including threatening the use of force.

Kamri resided in the village of Speu, in Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district, during the Khmer Rouge takeover of the country in 1975, and yesterday testified on the changes to the Cham way of life.

Kamri recounted forced communal dining, banning of religious practice, prohibition of traditional dress as well as the destruction of mosques and religious texts.

The alleged genocide of the Cham is a key charge in the ongoing Case 002/02 against defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Chea defender Victor Koppe, interjecting about a half-hour into Kamri’s testimony, questioned the judges as to why the Islamic leader had not taken an oath, an issue that was raised repeatedly throughout the day in a seeming attempt to challenge the witness’s credibility.

In addition to his status as a religious leader, Kamri later stated in his testimony that his refusal was also – in part – due to the fact that his Cham population figures were estimates, and he could not remember precise dates.

Under further questioning by prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian, Kamri recalled that he “encountered the pits where the dead bodies were buried” while collecting firewood.

Cross-examined by Koppe, Kamri was questioned on The Plan for Progressive Cooperatives, a 16-page booklet with a yellow cover, which the witness had claimed contained a plan to kill off the Cham by 1980 in prior testimony.

Tasked to measure land, Kamri said that while he waited for a district official he “asked the messenger if he had any book or document to read while I pass the time”.

Koppe pressed Kamri on the details of the book’s content.

“I was not sure about the year [1980] that you quoted, but I was sure about the plans to kill the Cham people but I can only tell you what I am certain of,” he said. “I do not know whether the author of that book exaggerated or not, but that is what I recall.”

Later, Kamri failed to answer questions by Samphan defender Anta Guisse as to why he did not warn his fellow Cham villagers about what he read.

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