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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-cadre testifies on Sao Phim’s last stand

Ex-cadre testifies on Sao Phim’s last stand

Senior Khmer Rouge leader Sao Phim, who killed himself rather than be taken prisoner by the comrades who suspected him of treason, was said to have had his innards scooped out and his corpse stuffed with ice before it was paraded around on a horse cart, a Khmer Rouge tribunal witness testified yesterday.

Sin Oeng, a bodyguard and distant relative to East Zone commander Phim, gave a dramatic retelling of Phim’s final visit to Phnom Penh that precipitated his suicide.

Phim and his guards were resting at Arei Ksat, across the river from the Royal Palace, so Phim could “sort things out” with Pol Pot.

“It was at 3 o’clock when the incident happened . . . We were surrounded and guns were fired at us,” Oeng said. “We had to run and we had to gather forces to counter the attack.”

He ran to a motorboat and started it, waiting for Phim to appear.

“I was in the boat waiting for him, and some other people together with him on the land were running . . . I was waiting in the boat but in vain,” he said.

Surrounded by enemies, Oeng said he expected to die.

“I tried to run away in order to save my life, and then I jumped into the [river] and I remained staying under the water,” he said.

He started to make his way towards his home, occasionally dipping into the water to hide from the gunfire. He was eventually captured.

“They wanted to kill me, but they first kept me and they made a report,” he said.

At a chaotic moment, Oeng saw his chance and fled again.

When asked of Phim’s fate, Oeng replied: “I heard people telling me that he killed himself when he was besieged by the forces.”

Prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian probed Oeng on a statement he gave to DC-Cam last year, in which he said he was told the Khmer Rouge “scooped out his head and intestines”, filled him with ice, and took him around on a horse cart for the citizenry to see. “I heard about it, but I did not witness it with my own eyes; it was villagers who told me,” Oeng said.

Oeng added Sao Phim had issued a final command to Heng Samrin – the current president of the National Assembly and a Khmer Rouge defector who, shortly after Phim’s death, fled to Vietnam. Phim told Samrin that if he had no news from Phim in one week, Samrin was to gather forces and escape into the forest, Oeng said yesterday.

The trial continues today.

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