Sordid details of the Khmer Rouge regime’s treatment of alleged traitors emerged yesterday as witnesses took the stand to testify on internal purges, a key element of the current case against regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
Continuing his testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, witness Sem On described a brutal regime that performed medical experiments on the pregnant wives of purged soldiers and smashed children’s bodies against car tyres.
“They said the women would be used for medical experiments in the hospital; they cut open their bodies, they injected liquid into them, and later on they died,” said On, who was a patient in a makeshift hospital in Suong pagoda for about one month at the time.
“I witnessed the incident with my own eyes. I peeked through the wall of the building, and after the operation had been conducted, their bodies were carried on trolleys to the outside area,” he added, noting that he had seen two women experimented upon.
On also said he witnessed soldiers from the country’s East Zone being executed with car axles. About 500 or more soldiers from the East Zone were rounded up by a special unit in charge of purging soldiers.
When On’s testimony concluded, witness 2-TWC-1036, whose real name was withheld, took the stand to testify about his time as a messenger, spy and bodyguard for the Khmer Rouge.
The witness joined the regime in 1972 and later became a body-guard for East Zone secretary Ruos Nhim. However, he was captured after officials arrested his boss for participating in an alleged plot against Pol Pot, and hauled him in for two days of torture and interrogation.
His interrogators were especially interested in potential links to Vietnam, the witness said, since he had accompanied Nhim to the border in 1977. “I was asked whether I was linked to the [Vietnamese] network. I was asked repeatedly about that line of questioning while I was detained at Kokoh,” the witness said, referring to a prison in Battambang province.
“I was electrocuted and I became unconscious twice,” he added, maintaining that he had never travelled to Vietnam and had only been involved in his capacity as a bodyguard.
Victor Koppe, defence lawyer for Nuon Chea, asked the witness about a planned rebellion against Pol Pot, and an alleged “secret civil war” between the Northwest and East zones. Internal divisions within the regime have formed a key element of Chea’s defence in Case 002/02, but the witness – admittedly nervous – claimed to have no knowledge of the infighting.