Former driver and messenger of Sao Phim, Norng Nim, testified about the conflict of the East Zone with the Central Zone. He pointed to arrests that took place and Sao Phim’s wish to solve the issue. Next, a former battalion chief (anonymous witness 2-TCW-823) gave information on the work of his unit as well as the conflict with Vietnam and marriages under the Khmer Rouge.
Defense Unit: Working for Sao Phim
The chamber heard the testimony of 2-TCW-1070 via audiovisual link from Tboung Khmum. Witness Norng Nim is 65 years old and was born in Roul Phaem Village, Dountei Commune Ponhea Kraek District in Tboung Khmum. The floor was handed to the Nuon Chea Defense Team. Counsel Victor Koppe told the chamber that the English translation had two sets of ERNs. Mr. Koppe then asked whether it was correct that he worked in the Defense Unit protecting Sao Phim in the East Zone between 1970 and 1978. The witness confirmed this. He lived with him from 1971. He was related to Sao Phim. Dul alias Prak Chhoeuk was also related to him. He used to be his driver. He also confirmed that he was always with Sao Phim. He would sometimes go to the division office and divisional headquarters. He did not attend meetings with him, but brought him to meetings. He never went inside.
Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that the defense unit consisted of 12 members and was led by Chek and his deputy Prak Chhoeuk. Mr. Nim replied that there was Chhoeuk and Chek. Mr. Koppe asked whether Chhoeuk was Pol Pot’s brother or cousin. He replied that they were not related.
Mr. Koppe asked who Sao Phim visited in Phnom Penh. Mr. Nim replied that he met Pol Pot. Sao Phim was picked up by another vehicle and left when they arrived. He never saw Sao Phim meeting Vietnamese people. To refresh his memory, Mr. Koppe read an excerpt to the witness, in which he had said that he saw the Vietnamese. The witness replied that he saw Vietnamese when they invaded the country in 1979. He could not recall the dates of the meetings, nor did he know the names of the people Sao Phim met. They met at Ta Kok Mountain (in Battambang). This was before the war with Vietnam.
Mr. Koppe asked whether he knew Pou Oeng, who had testified last week. The witness replied that he did not know. Mr. Koppe read an excerpt of his statement, in which he had talked about Pou Ung, but the witness could not recall. Mr. Koppe said that he had talked to DC-Cam only one and a half years ago and asked “what happened in between?” The witness said he could now recall the name.
Visits by High-Ranking Cadres
Mr. Koppe asked about Sao Phim’s daughter Sy. Her husband was called Cheal and was Sector 5 chief and son of Northwest Zone chief Ruos Nhim. He could not recall when they got married, but he recalled that it was after the fall of Phnom Penh. He estimated that they got married in around 1976. They got married at a location called Ruos Ko Khar. He did not know who arranged their wedding. He knew Cheal, because he came to visit the witness’s place often. He saw Sy and Cheal together. Mr. Koppe asked whether the marriage could have taken place in August 1975.
Sao Phim and Ruos Nhim visited each other often. Mr. Koppe said that he had said that “our site went more often.” They also met in Battambang. He could not recall the exact location. Mr. Koppe inquired whether his office was close to a market, which the witness confirmed. Mr. Koppe asked whether the house was located one or two kilometers West of Psar Leu, namely in Ampil Prahong. Judge Claudia Fenz instructed him to give the specific references. The witness said that they met at the house and “took arrest at the house.” He did not know what they discussed, as he was outside. Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that Sao Phim also visited Cheal in say Sisophon and not only Ruos Nhim in Battambang, which Mr. Nim confirmed.
Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that Ruos Nhim was “dark, tall, big built, straight hair and about the same age as Sao Phim.” The witness confirmed this. They shook each other’s hands when they saw each other and hugged each other. The witness confirmed that they would jokingly call each other A-Siam and A-Yuon respectively. They had a good relationship, so when they met each other, “they were jokingly teasing each other.”
They went to Angkor Wat together with Ruos Nhim. They talked to each other. He did not know what they said, as he was not engaged in the situation. “I was far from them.”
Mr. Koppe said that he had said that they visited Battambang around two times per year. Mr. Nim replied that he went there once or twice. Mr. Koppe asked how Sao Phim got from the East Zone to the Northwest Zone. He replied that he would travel by boat sometimes. They met at the riverfront on some occasions and sometimes at Samraong worksite. Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that he would visit him in Tuol Preab and Samraong, which the witness confirmed. Ruos Nhim would visit Sao Phim once or twice a year. “Many bodyguards, maybe ten” accompanied him when he visited Sao Phim. They came in two vehicles. Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that visits also took place in Suong, which the witness confirmed.
Mr. Koppe inquired whether he recalled Vorn Vet. He answered that he remembered him. He never saw Vorn Vet and Ruos Nhim together.
Military Structure in the East Zone
Mr. Koppe wanted to know who was in charge of Division 4 in the East Zone. He replied that Heng Samrin was in charge of this division. He could recognize his face, he said. He knew him before 1975. The witness himself did not go to Phnom Penh, but Heng Samrin did. Messengers would carry letters. He confirmed that he delivered letters to Heng Samrin when he was attacking Phnom Penh in 1975. When Mr. Koppe asked whether Heng Samrin as involved in the evacuation of Phnom Penh in 1975 the internet connection seemed to have been interrupted. The president adjourned the hearing for a break.
Phnom Penh and Coup D’Etats
After the break, Mr. Koppe inquired about the liberation of Phnom Penh. Mr. Nim confirmed that Heng Samrin was involved in the liberation of Phnom Penh. Mr. Koppe inquired whether it was correct that Mr. Nim was a courier and brought messages from the rear to the battlefront, which the witness confirmed. Heng Samrin’s superior was Sao Phim. Mr. Koppe asked whether Heng Samrin was a member of the Supreme General Staff in the East Zone in charge of supplying ammunition. He knew the person Keo Samnang, as Mr. Nim used to go to his place. He confirmed that the Supreme General Staff was located in Prey Veng. He also went there. Mr. Koppe inquired whether the names Kry and Chhoeun meant anything to him. Mr. Nim answered that he knew Chhoeun. He said he was “forgetful” now and could not recognize their faces. He asked whether he knew Ryt Phorn and Kry. The witness said that he did not know these people.
Mr. Koppe asked whether he knew Tal, who was also a division commander. He answered that he never met this person. Mr. Koppe asked whether he often met Ta Ryn after 1975 when he was Sao Phim’s driver and bodyguard. He did not have time to talk to him, but he saw him.
Mr. Koppe presented a video still to the witness. Mr. Nim said he was not certain whether he knew the person on the photograph (it shows, according to Mr. Koppe, Heng Samrin). When a brief video was shown to the witness, he replied that he did not recognize the person. He recognized Sao Phim on another photograph. Mr. Koppe asked whether the person on the left of Sao Phim was Nuon Chea, a person Mr. Nim had frequently mentioned in his Written Record of Interview.
Mr. Koppe inquired whether he remembered Heng Samrin’s brother Heng Samkai. He confirmed this and said he was deceased by now. Mr. Koppe inquired whether Sao Phim had frequent conflict with Heng Samkai, which the witness denied. “He only came when something important was to settle.”
Mr. Koppe inquired what happened in the two weeks before Sao Phim died. He answered that there were “incidents” and “arrests.” “They were taken away to be killed.” Mr. Koppe asked whether he had said that Pol Pot staged a coup d’état. Mr. Nim replied that he could not remember. Mr. Koppe said that he had spoken to DC-Cam only one and a half years ago and asked whether he was afraid to testify. Mr. Nim answered that he was very forgetful now.
Judge Fenz interjected and asked what coup d’état meant for the witness. He replied that it meant that Pol Pot arrested civilians and soldiers to be killed. This was “Pol Pot’s coup d’état. “Almost everyone from the former East Zone […] spoke about a coup d’état staged either by Pol Pot or Son Sen.” Mr. Koppe asked what he meant when he said that Pol Pot staged a coup d’état. He answered that he did not know who staged the coup, but that “there was only Pol Pot.” Mr. Koppe asked whether he ever heard Sao Phim say that Pol Pot or Son Sen staged a coup d’état. He answered that he heard of Pol Pot’s name. “He made mention of that. He said that it was no one other than Pol Pot who staged the coup d’état killing people.” Mr. Koppe asked why he was “seemingly afraid” to speak about this. He replied that he did not know who Pol Pot was and that he heard of his name.
Sao Phim’s Death
Mr. Koppe inquired what he knew about Sao Phim’s death. He replied that he did not know details. He was told to stay at his location when Sao Phim left for Prey Veng and that this was when they were separated. “As of now, we have never seen each other.” He did not know where he died. Mr. Koppe asked what he did after June 3 1978 when Sao Phim died. Mr. Nim answered that he went to see his relatives in his own birth village. He spent around two or three nights on the way before reaching his destination. Mr. Koppe asked whether it was not true that he created an army of at least 230 persons in the East Zone to fight back against the center forces after Sao Phim’s death. Mr. Nim confirmed this. He then said that he was not engaged in the fighting and had already left. “I had to flee from time to time and then I was arrested,” he said. To refresh his memory, Mr. Koppe read an excerpt of his interview, in which he had said that they created an army of 200 to 300 forces. He confirmed that he had talked about this. “They were from different units to defend the people so that people would not be taken away and killed. We created that force in order to defend our people to avoid the killings. I was so scared at the time, and I was fleeing to see my relatives.”
Mr. Koppe asked whether he was not with the defense forces in Battalion 09. The witness confirmed that he was in that battalion, but that he was not directly involved. Mr. Koppe asked whether he recalled having said that the fighting took place near Suong at Wat Veah Tautem Pagoda. He confirmed this, but said that he was not directly involved in this. Mr. Koppe asked whether Mao Pok was the commander of Battalion 09. He replied that he did not know who Mao Pol was. When Mr. Koppe confronted him with his Written Record of Interview, he said that he remembered Mao Pok, who was part of Battalion 09. He did not know whether he was arrested by the Vietnamese in 1982.
Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne asked for the reference that Cheal was the Secretary of Sector 5, as the OCIJ list said that Cheal was an assistant to Sector 5. Mr. Koppe replied that he did not have the references with him at the moment. He would provide the exact references after the break
Relation between Sao Phim and Other Cadres
The floor was handed to the Co-Prosecution. International Co-Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian asked whether it was correct that Pol Pot would visit the East Zone. He could not remember this clearly. Mr. Koumjian read an excerpt and asked whether he remembered Pol Pot visiting the East Zone after the defeat of the Lon Nol army. He answered that he came and would return on the same day. He heard of Nuon Chea’s name, but did not see him. Mr. Koumjian said that he had stated that Nuon Chea came to Suong, Samraong and Pheab. He answered that he sometimes could recall it and sometimes could not. He saw Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary “for a brief moment on some particular days.” Asked how Sao Phim would greet them, he said that he would hug them and ask them how they were. They would come with four or five and sometimes ten bodyguards. Mr. Koumjian wanted to know when the arrests in the East Zone started, which the witness could not recall. Mr. Koumjian said that “only after that last wave of arrest” Sao Phim realized that he would be arrested. He asked whether he knew that there were waves of arrests in the East Zone. The witness did not hear the question and Mr. Koumjian moved on. The witness said that he “could not read [Sao Phim’s] mind.” He was quiet at the time, he said. Mr. Koumjian asked whether he recalled that Sao Phim was hospitalized in Phnom Penh in early 1978, which the witness confirmed.
Sao Phim had “massive rashes” on his skin and that these could not be cured. Mr. Koumjian read an excerpt of Ben Kiernan’s book, in which Kiernan had said that Sao Phim’s zone was under attack when he returned from the hospital in April 1978. He asked whether Mr. Nim had heard of people from the East Zone being arrested and sent to Phnom Penh in April 1978. He said that he did not know, but that all people who held leadership positions disappeared. Mr. Koppe interjected and gave the references about Cheal being the secretary of Sector 5.
At this point, the President adjourned the hearing for a break.
Judge Nonn announced that 2-TCW-1071, who had commenced his testimony last Friday would continue on Thursday. The presiding judge then issued an oral ruling on an 87 (4) request and granted the request to admit documents.
Mr. Koumjian asked whether he remembered what Sao Phim said why he went to Phnom Penh. Mr. Nim replied that he wanted to find out but did not know. Mr. Koumjian said that Sao Phim had said that he had not done anything wrong and that he would go to Phnom Penh. Mr. Koumjian inquired whether he remembered this. The witness replied that he did not know what to answer to this question, because his knowledge at the time was limited and that he was forgetful. He brought around ten members of the defense unit with him and no soldiers. Sao Phim went to meet the people in the leadership position “in order to find out the truth” and neither ran away nor hid in the forest.
Mr. Koumjian asked whether Sao Phim could have escaped if he had wanted to. Mr. Koppe objected and said that it asked for speculation. Mr. Koumjian said that the witness had said Sao Phim was unwilling to escape, but that he would have been able to. Mr. Koumjian asked to explain what he meant when saying that Sao Phim could have escaped but was unwilling to do so. “If he had chosen to flee, he could have done that, but he was an honest person. He chose to stay and face the truth.” Some of the members of his unit were taken away and killed. “They were all loaded on a truck.” This took place at various worksites and departments. He never saw those people who were arrested again. Mr. Koumjian asked whether he had ever visited Tuol Sleng Museum, which the witness denied. The members of his own family “were all fine”, but other families lost members.
Mr. Koumjian wanted to know what happened to Sao Phim’s family. He heard that “they were all killed,” but did not witness this himself. With this, Mr. Koumjian concluded his line of questioning.
Visits to Phnom Penh
The floor was granted to the Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyers. National Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyer Pich Ang asked about his visit to Phnom Penh. He replied that he went to his office and dropped him off at the office. He accompanied him often. He could not recall how often he went between mid-1975 and mid-1978. Sometimes he went every four or five months. He was escorted in a vehicle. Sometimes other people would escort him. He went to Phnom Penh, but he did not know where the meetings took place or whom he met. Mr. Ang asked whether he ever saw Nuon Chea, which he confirmed. He did not recall which year this happened, but he saw him visiting the zone “quite often.” He went to visit the zone after Phnom Penh was liberated. He saw Nuon Chea four or five times. He was with his guards. He did not know why Nuon Chea visited the Zone. “I was guarding outside, I did not know what was going on inside.” He did not know who the people were who attended the meetings. They were not from the East Zone. He did not know whether Nuon Chea was higher than Sao Phim.
Turning to his last question, Mr. Ang asked whether he obeyed his superiors. Mr. Nim confirmed this. “He obeyed his superiors, that’s why he attended the meetings.” With this, Mr. Ang concluded his line of questioning.
The Khieu Samphan Defense Team did not have any questions.
At this point, the President adjourned the hearing for a break.
New Witness: 2-TCW-823
Witness 2-TCW-823 (who remained anonymous due to ongoing investigations in other cases) was ushered into the courtroom. The floor was then handed to the Co-Prosecutors. Assistant Prosecutor Andrew Boyle inquired about background information. He joined the revolution in 1970 when he joined at the village level. “Many villagers joined the military after Samdech Sihanouk was overthrown in a coup.” He joined the sector level in Kampot. He could not recall the month nor year when he was transferred to the Southwest Zone forces. He was sent back to Kampong Saom after Phnom Penh fell. He participated in the liberation of Phnom Penh. He was with Division 3. He was there for less than half a month. He was sent back together with Division 3. They were integrated with other forces. He was part of Battalion 560. Mr. Koppe asked whether it was correct that this was part of Regiment 63 in Division 164, which the witness confirmed. The witness was commander of Battalion 560, which was based on Koh Seh and Koh Thmei. Mr. Boyle asked whether he spent a few days organizing the forces in Kang Keng before being deployed to the island. The witness said that they organized guns, ammunition, food supplies and engine boats to transport the force. He was based mostly on Koh Seh Island. He could not recall the month. “The island belonged to us,” he said. If the Vietnamese attacked, they would have to defend themselves. He specified the weapons and boats they possessed. They were close to Koh Tral Island where Vietnamese were stationed. “The Vietnamese came with their fishing boats, but those boats were mounted with weapons.” They came close to Cambodian islands. “The attack was unavoidable.” Their boats crossed into the Cambodian maritime territory, he said. At this point, Mr. Koppe interjected and said that Mr. Boyle had repeatedly put questions to the witness about “what he perceived the borders”, but that this was not subject to personal opinions. Mr. Boyle read an excerpt of the witness’s interview. The witness replied that the Cambodian side never invaded Vietnamese territory. However, sometimes fishing boats armed with weapons entered Cambodian territory and they had to shell back. “We would be attacked by those boats.” The obtained the maps according to which they would defend their territories from their divisional leaders. His unit never arrested and captured Vietnamese. Mr. Boyle read an excerpt of another person’s interview and asked whether this refreshed his memory that Vietnamese were captured and brought to Ou Chheu Teal Port. He answered that his unit never captured Vietnamese, but that there were injuries. Battalion 565 from Sector 5 was integrated. Mr. Boyle wanted to know whether Battalion 560, which the witness commanded, was renamed and called Battalion 633 at some point. There were three battalions. Vet was the head of Battalion 530 and 540 was led by Sary. The witness was head of Battalion 560. Vet was removed. He may have been reassigned, the witness said, but he did not know where to. He did not know when this happened. This prompted Mr. Boyle to point to the OCIJ S-21 prisoner list, in which it was indicated that Ung Vet was removed in April 1977. The witness could still not remember.
On special circumstances, the witness could not attend meetings. The meetings would be held by Ta Muth, and in his absence, by Brother Dim. He never met Son Sen. He saw him in Phnom Penh. When Ta Mok and Ta Dim attended the meetings, he would never see Son Sen. They were required to obey to discipline. Other topics included how not to be bitten by mosquitos.
Mr. Boyle wanted to know whether he recalled when the training session in Phnom Penh took place. He stayed in Phnom Penh for around two or three days. The study session related to the defense of the country. “Troops deployed at frontiers, border line areas […] had to focus on that.” It took place in 1976 and Pol Pot spoke. Other individuals like Son Sen “were on the side.” He did not see Khieu Samphan clearly in Kampong Saom. He saw his vehicle, but not his face. Thus, he only assumed that he attended the meeting.
The witness confirmed that he was transferred to Phnom Penh in 1978. He stayed there for less than ten days.  It was less than a month before the Vietnamese arrived. He was tasked to control the industrial place. They had to prepare themselves to counter workers’ rebellions. The situation was unstable, he said, and he was responsible for stabilizing the workers’ force. He did not have the opportunity to educate them before the Vietnamese arrived in the city. He did not recall where he met him. He met Khieu Samphan in Phnom Penh. A person called Chhum was already there. However, he got separated from him and never met him again. He met Khieu Samphan only once. They were told that they had to struggle against the Vietnamese.
With this, Mr. Boyle concluded his line of questioning and the floor was handed to the Civil Party lawyers.
Mr. Ang asked when he got married. He replied that he got married in 1976. He knew his wife before his wedding. They agreed on their marriage a short time before they got married. “Before our agreement, we did not have any love relationship.” They asked whether they agreed to marry each other. Around thirty couples or more got married on that day. He said that there may have been even forty couples who got married on the same day. There were two disabled soldiers, including himself. There was a disabled soldier from a regiment and his wife was from a battalion. At the division level, there were Ta Muth and Dym, and some other times people from the division level. They did not mention that they had to produce children during the wedding ceremony, but it was their policy, he said. “That was policy from the upper echelon down to the lower level that we had to increase our force to defend our country.” The upper echelon arrange the marriage, but he did not know about the details. “It was contradicted to the tradition. […] I don’t know whether the wedding was organized according to foreign culture, but it was different to Khmer tradition.” With this, he concluded his line of questioning.
The president announced that the testimony of 2-TCW-823 would be continued tomorrow, followed by the testimony of expert 2-TCE-1062.
 Page. 65 EN), 01348530 (FR), 01340486 (KH).
 At p. 101, 01340510 (KH), 01348553 (FR).
 P. 52, 01348519-20 (FR), 01340476 (KH).
 P. 53.
 2-TCW-1036 Testimony.
 P. 63, 01340483 (KH), 01348527 (FR).
 01348540 (FR), 01340497 (KH).
 E3/517, at 00373441 (KH), 00426348 (FR).
 E3/3015R, at 01:53.
 E3/3259, at P00416559 (EN).
 p. 83, 01348541 (FR), 01340497 (KH).
 E3/1017, at 01354213 (EN), 01348551 (FR), 01340508 (KH).
 E3/10604, 1032.
 01355814 (EN), 01340522 (KH), 01348565 (FR).
 E3/1593, at 01150203 (EN), 00639172 (FR), 00637947 (KH).
 E3/9690, at answer 28.
 At 01340501 (KH), 01348544 (FR), 01355782 (EN).
 E3/10665, at 01168480 (KH), 01156823 (EN).
 01348545 (FR), 01340501 (KH).
 E3/9069, at 00969927 (EN), 00926305 (KH)
 E3/9069, at 00969934-35 (EN).
 E3/9069, at 00969934-35 (EN), 00926311 (KH).
 E3/9675, at answer 6.
 E3/10604, at Nr. 2368.
 E3/9069, at 00969957-58 (EN), 00926338 (KH).
 E3/9069, and E3/9870a, 01033988 (KH).
 E3/9069, at 00969949 (EN), 00926328 (KH).
Featured image: Witness 2-TCW-823 (ECCC: Flickr).