Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness tells court of re-education, killings

Witness tells court of re-education, killings

Phon Thol gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday. ECCC
Phon Thol gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan yesterday. ECCC

Witness tells court of re-education, killings

It was for the crime of cutting rubber plants with an “upper class” or “feudalist” technique that Phon Thol found himself arrested, interrogated and imprisoned at Au Kanseng security centre, the Khmer Rouge tribunal heard yesterday.

Thol and his pregnant wife were carted off in 1977 for “re-education” at the detention centre, which was brought under the microscope yesterday as the court began the security centre phase of the current Case 002/02 against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Bearing witness to the atrocities at the Ratanakkiri province security centre, Thol told of killings, torture and fierce suspicion of alleged KGB or CIA spies.

He told the court a woman had her back sliced open and her gall bladder removed. According to his testimony, the organ was strung up in the kitchen – a gruesome “omen” for the other prisoners. Some died of dysentery or diarrhoea; another was shot for fleeing the compound.

“My hands were tied and my [feet] were shackled, but I was not tortured,” Thol said. “Other detainees were beaten and electrocuted . . . They used pliers to torture them until they became unconscious.”

Through cracks in bamboo walls where he lay shackled, he saw a large group of ethnic Jarai people brought to the centre and taken away. Later, while he had been entrusted to guard a jackfruit plantation, he stumbled upon the rim of a mass grave.

“I suspected that Jarai minority people had perhaps been killed at that place.”

When questioned by civil party lawyers, Thol said he did not know whether the security guards acted according to their own rules, or if directions trickled down from Khmer Rouge’s upper echelon.

The centre is one of three that will be examined by the court in the current case, with evidence of internal purges at Phnom Kraol in Mondulkiri province and S-21 in Phnom Penh to be addressed in the upcoming hearings.

Prior to Thol taking the stand, civil party Uch Sunlay continued his testimony from Tuesday’s session, delving into the details of the murder of his Vietnamese wife and their children.

Rhetorically, he asked the court room: “Why [did the Khmer Rouge] have a policy to kill even the babies and the infants? Is it that you [wanted to] become immortal?”

The trial continues today.

MOST VIEWED

  • Archaeologists find ancient remnant

    A team from the Apsara National Authority (ANA) has discovered a gatekeeper statue’s foot fragment at the Tonle Snguot Temple, within a metre of the toe of a statue found in 2017. ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on Wednesday that the fragment was

  • Hun Sen to the rescue

    Cambodia has won praise for allowing passengers of the MS Westerdam cruise ship to dock at Preah Sihanouk port, thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s humanitarian act. In a message via Twitter on Wednesday, the director-general of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu

  • EU partially withdraws EBA

    The EU Commission on Wednesday announced the partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms (EBA) scheme, citing a serious and systematic violation by Cambodia of principles in the four core human and labour rights. The suspension affects one-fifth or €1 billion ($1.08 billion) of Cambodia’s annual

  • PM orders immediate action against ‘sexy’ live streamers

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday ordered immediate action against women who live stream their sales pitches on Facebook wearing revealing clothing. The prime minister said the practice erodes traditional Cambodian values and disgraces women. Hun Sen gave the order to officials attending the Cambodian

  • Trump tweets praise for Kingdom docking ship

    Cambodia continues to earn praise for its humanitarian act of allowing the MS Westerdam cruise ship with more than 2,200 passengers and crew on board to dock at the Preah Sihanouk port. The praise this time comes from none other than US President Donald Trump. “Thank

  • Japan calls for policy changes

    Representatives of Japanese companies and investors on Wednesday submitted a list of policy recommendations to the government concerning 21 challenges to the Kingdom’s business climate. Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami and leaders of the Japanese Business Association in Cambodia (JBAC), Japan International Cooperation Agency