A Khmer Rouge tribunal witness was yesterday accused of fabricating his imprisonment at Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre, along with claims that he saw executions, including the disembowelment of a woman, at the compound in Takeo province.
In a combative session, Keo Chandara, 80, was challenged by defendant Nuon Chea’s international lawyer Victor Koppe after testifying he was imprisoned in 1975, about five years after joining the Khmer Rouge movement as a young doctor.
His evidence before the Khmer Rouge tribunal differed from his earlier statement to investigators, which placed his arrest in 1973 or 1974.
“It was in March 1975 and early April of that year.… It was not correct when I said 1974,” said Chandara, who worked as a medic, treating Khmer Rouge cadres injured in the war against the Lon Nol regime.
“I was detained at the time of the liberation in April,” he said, referring to the Khmer Rouge’s capture of Phnom Penh.
“So between March and April, it was a total of 29 days.”
Chandara said he was released after an intervention by Southwest Zone chief Ta Mok, a friend of his mother’s.
However, Koppe accused him of lying, as he did previous Kraing Ta Chan witness Meas Sokha.
“You are a good friend of Ta Mok, you’re a true revolutionary. We are a few days before the liberation, you get arrested, you get detained for four weeks, you don’t remember any questions being asked, you weren’t asked to write a confession,” Koppe said.
“Mr Witness, I put it to you that you were never detained, you were never arrested at Kraing Ta Chan and other places, is that correct?”
Chandara – who said he helped exhume 12,000 skulls from the site in 1979 – hit back.
“Your understanding is not correct. You say that I was not arrested, but I was arrested, I have a better understanding than yours, I know myself very well, you are not me.”
Earlier, Chandara had described his capture by his former comrades, saying he was first interrogated before being taken to Kraing Ta Chan, where he said “there were not less than 50 victims executed a day” while revolutionary music blared through loudspeakers.
He said he was tasked with digging mass graves, and once saw someone who resembled Nuon Chea at the compound, who was called “Ta Chea”.
He also recalled being part of a group forced to watch the torture of three women.
One of the women had her heart, gallbladder and liver removed, with the latter taken away to be fried, he said.
The case against former Khmer Rouge leaders Chea and Khieu Samphan continues on Wednesday.