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

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget