Former Khmer Rouge Official Tells Tribunal of Hiding Rice

A former commune official on Tuesday claimed at the Khmer Rouge tribunal that she hid rice stores—in violation of orders from her superiors—to ensure that everyone in her commune had enough to eat in the face of food shortages.

Giving evidence via video link from Battambang province, Khoem Boeun, who was made the head of Tram Kak district’s Cheang Tong commune in 1973, characterized herself as a “good” person who acted with generosity.

Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne asked whether Ms. Boeun ever disregarded the instructions she received from the upper echelons.

“It is true that I hid some rice,” she said. “I did it for my people and I only hid it a few times, and most of the time, I hid it in the pagoda,” she added.

Asked whether people had died due to food shortages, Ms. Boeun said that it “might have happened” but when pressed on this issue claimed that no one died from hunger in her commune.

“[O]f course people became ill also in my commune, but no one died from starvation in my commune, although sometimes the food supply was not sufficient,” she told the judge.

Most of Tuesday’s hearing was allocated to the defense’s cross-examination of Ms. Boeun, who was appearing for the second day as a witness in the second phase of the trial of former regime leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who stand accused of committing crimes against humanity.

Victor Koppe, international counsel for Nuon Chea, at one point attempted to read from a confession made by Chou Chet, the former Western Zone commander who was purged in 1978 and sent to the Tuol Sleng security center in Phnom Penh.

Following an objection from the prosecution, the Trial Chamber ruled that all questions based on statements obtained through torture would be prohibited in the courtroom. A written decision on the ban is due to be released next week, according to Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn.

A new witness will take the stand when hearings resume Thursday.

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