Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Reluctant revolutionary begins testimony at Khmer Rouge court

Reluctant revolutionary begins testimony at Khmer Rouge court

Reluctant revolutionary begins testimony at Khmer Rouge court


In 1973, when Lon Nol soldiers brought war to his village in Kampong Chhnang province, witness Kheav En was just a 20-something aspiring medic.

His plans, however, were upended in a fire.

“My village was attacked; my house was burned down,” he said yesterday on his first day of testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

Escaping the carnage en masse, En and others returned to find their neighbourhood a charred landscape. En recalled that when people came back, “they saw nothing but ashes from the fire on their houses”.

"So I did not join the revolution on a voluntary basis, but the circumstances induced me,” he said.

En, now a resident of Pailin province, spent the day slouched back in a chair, patiently explaining his journey from unwilling participant to Khmer Rouge militiaman.

He saw monks defrocked and colleagues vanish as victims of purges.

After the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, he came to work at the Ministry of Information and Propaganda near the Royal Palace, he said. At the Ministry, he prepared printouts of international news and broadcasts.

Disappearances were common. One day, a colleague would come into work. The next day, he wouldn’t.

The minister himself, Hu Nim, was accused of being an agent of the CIA arrested in April 1977, and executed three months later at the S-21 torture centre in Phnom Penh.

When the minister’s replacement also disappeared, En said that co-accused Nuon Chea stepped in to take over management of affairs.

Cambodian defence attorney for Nuon Chea, Son Arun, asked En questions that seemed to test how much he knew about his client’s role within the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

“I knew that he was the person after Pol Pot. Of course, I did not see any document, but I learned it through friends” who were party members, En responded.

Before adjourning, the Trial Chamber announced that it was prepared to hear oral arguments about the logistics of scheduling witnesses, a matter that has been complicated recently by the hospitalisation of co-accused Ieng Sary, the 86-year-old former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The hearing should take place as early as this week, or after En finishes his testimony.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Freeman at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia’s image problem

    In opening remarks at a recent event, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luy David said information can be a double-edged sword. He told a European Institute of Asian Studies (EIAS) briefing seminar that the media has unfairly presented

  • PM Hun Sen says dangers averted

    Delivering a campaign speech from his home via Facebook Live on Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Hun Sen said his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had carried the country through danger in its latest mandate. He was specifically referring to the threat of a “colour revolution”

  • Kingdom's trade deal with EU questioned before poll

    A European Union (EU) mission met with senior government officials at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday as the 28-member bloc monitors an agreement under which Cambodian goods reach the crucial European market tariff-free. Some 10 commissioners are in the Kingdom as part of a seven-day

  • A new carrier takes off in capital

    Cambodia Airways, the latest passenger airline to enter the Kingdom, launched its first domestic flight on Tuesday. Flight KR801, carrying 145 passengers, left the Phnom Penh International Airport at 9:50am and landed in Siem Reap at 10:35am in an Airbus A319. Cambodia Airways marketing and branding