Witness says she saw KR leaders at worksite

ECCC in Phnom Penh
A policeman stands guard as people queue to attend a hearing for Case 002/02 at the ECCC in Phnom Penh earlier this month. AFP

Witness says she saw KR leaders at worksite

Almost 38 years after allegedly seeing Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea as they toured her worksite, Chou Koemlan yesterday got the chance to address the former Khmer Rouge leaders, under whose regime she lost a nephew, three children and her husband.

Appearing as a civil party in Case 002/02, Koemlan told the Khmer Rouge tribunal about her brush with the men, whom she accused of ruining the country.

She said in 1977 the pair – together with high-ranking Khmer Rouge official Ta Mok – visited a canal that her work unit was digging in Tram Kok district’s Cham Bok village.

“While I was standing I smiled at them, but I was still working hard at the time to unearth the soil,” she said.

She added she had recognised Samphan from a photo published in newspaper when he held the position of people’s representative with the previous Sihanouk government, and her work unit chief had pointed out Chea.

Heralded by the Khmer Rouge leaders as one of the “model districts” of their radical Marxist revolution, Tram Kok became a nightmare of executions, sickness, starvation and death, the court heard.

Koemlan said her husband was executed when the Khmer Rouge discovered he had been a military medic under the former Lon Nol regime.

She said her newborn and second youngest died of lack of food, her oldest son was executed for trying to eat a potato, and her brother was shot for attempting to flee to Vietnam.

Koemlan said that her nephew, a monk, was “disemboweled” by a woman he married under the regime because his father was a high-ranking soldier under Lon Nol.

Prior to Koemlan’s testimony, Samphan and Chea were lambasted by Cambodian author Um Sophany, another civil party in the case who also lived in Tram Kok during the regime.

“What kinds of hearts do these two criminals have?” she asked. “I saw dead bodies that died in a pool of blood and the stench filled the air, and [I thought] we were already in hell.”

Chea’s international defence lawyer Victor Koppe questioned Sophany’s credibility, suggesting she had mischaracterised the wedding to her fiance as a “forced marriage” in a 2013 interview with the Post.

Hearings are to continue today.

Elsewhere at the court, pre-trial chamber international judge Rowan Downing is leaving the tribunal to take up a position in Geneva. Rowan most recently offered a much-anticipated dissenting opinion on a decision to dismiss a defence motion to disqualify the current trial chamber judges.

He has been replaced by judge Steven Bwana.

MOST VIEWED

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the