PURSAT PROVINCE - They came after midnight. And they massacred a dozen people, including
Toun Trop saw them walk into her daughter's house, pull away the mosquito net covering
her daughter and three grandchildren, and shoot them all.
Vann Neing Try said his niece panicked from her hiding place in the water with him
behind a boat, tried to get away but was shot. Her wounded mother was finished off
by an AK-47 round while lying in a canoe; her grandmother was hacked to death with
The wounded and relatives of people who died during an unprovoked Khmer Rouge attack
on the Tonle Sap floating village of Kork Keo on May 17 tell a story of gratuitous
violence and mayhem.
In just three hours, guerillas killed twelve people and burned eleven homes.
Six children were among the dead - the oldest was 12, the youngest just 2-years-old.
"When I heard the first gun shot, I thought it was some policemen. I got up
and I saw flames on the boats nearby, and bodies floating in the water. I jumped
and tried to get away," Miet Mek said, explaining her escape from the carnage.
She found refuge in Kompong Luong, another floating village about 30 km south from
Kor Keo. "God helped me," she said as she tied her boat home to its new
The less lucky lay wounded in Pursat hospital. Toun Trop, sat on a bed with her three-month-old
daughter in her arms. She is looking after her son-in-law who has just had surgery
to repair three bullet wounds in his arm and leg.
"The Khmer Rouge were in my house asking for money, then they entered my daughter's
house. They just took the mosquito net from the bed and shot at my three grand children
and my daughter who were asleep," she said.
Two boys, aged two and four, an eight-year-old girl and their 24-year-old mother
Rong, her 10-year-old daughter survived because that night she was staying at her
Toun Trop spoke softly as she tended to her wounded relatives: "When the Khmer
Rouge left my house, I went to my daughter's. I heard my son-in-law. He asked me:
'Why I am not able to walk?' I looked at him and he had two bullets in his leg."
In all, eight wounded arrived at the Pursat hospital the day after the attack.
"Most of them received very serious fractures from bullets. We performed four
surguries," said doctor Chhoeurn Vuthy.
Three days after the attack Vann Nieng Try and his family also found refuge in Kompong
"When I heard the first gun shot, I took the children with me and jumped in
the lake," the fisherman said.
"We hid behind a boat and the guerillas came. They looked around with their
hand lamp. My niece was afraid, she tried to get away from the boat. They shot her.
She was 10-years-old."
The girl's mother was also shot at as she tried to hide in a canoe after being shot
in the legs. Her grandmother was hacked to death with an axe.
According to witnesses about 30 Khmer Rouge from Bakan district took part in the
attack after they forced four villagers from Reang Tael to bring them to Kork Keo
on small boats.
But in Kork Keo, no-one reacted to the attack.
"There are ten policemen registered as working in the village, but only four
stayed in the village all the time. That night, they fled a few minutes after the
attack started," one villager said.
"There was not enough policemen and they were not armed well enough to be able
to counter attack. They just ran away," said Som Rit Eng, Kandieng district
The guerillas' first stop was to burn the commune office. They also stopped at the
house of Kroch Sokhon, the second deputy commune leader.
"Twenty men entered my place. They robbed my wife's shop. I think the main purpose
of their attack was for money," said Sokhon in Pursat hospital, where he was
recovering from a bullet wound in his shoulder.
According to the police, goods valued at 15 million riel had been taken - and three
"They mostly entered the big houses, the ones that looked the richest,"
said the official.
At Trop's house, they knew perfectly well what they wanted.
"Among the men who attacked my house, I recognized one person I knew from a
nearby village. They asked me about money and they knew that another family had repaid
a loan I had recently given them. In fact they asked me for the same amount of money
that I received from this family," said Trop.
Sokhon's father recognized the chief of the Khmer Rouge as a man who joined guerillas
in the eighty's. In 1994, he defected to the government in Battambang province but
returned to the Khmer Rouge a few months after.
While the need for money may have been the main purpose of the raid, at the same
time the guerillas targeted Vietnamese families.
The last attack against a Vietnamese village happened in May 1995 when four Vietnamese
were killed. Before the elections in 1993, several attacks occured in which about
100 Vietnameses died and about 5,000 fled to the border.
However, district and provincial authorities denied the attackers were targeting
"The Khmer Rouge are more numerous around here in the past three months. Most
of them are coming from Pailin and they take advantage that the government forces
are still occupied in the north-west," said Ying Neang Hai, the chief of provincial
Still, among the 12 victims, 11 were Vietnamese and from the eight wounded, five
The guerillas went directly in Kork Keo, the village where a majority of Vietnamese
"In Reang Tael commune, there are three floating villages. Kor Keo is the furthest
one from the place where guerillas took the boat. They did not stop in the other
villages nearer to them," said Sokhon.
"I heard them saying 'we have to kill all the villagers'," said Vann Yieng
"The Khmer Rouge did not find enough money in my house so they burned it,"
said Hoeur Yan Than, who had all his belongings in a small green bag at the end of
his hospital bed.
"They burned my house and the two boats I used for fishing. I lost everything."
Hoeur's wife helps him eat as his right arm was injured.
"I was swimming away with my son in my arm. Someone from behind told me 'stop
I want to ask you something'. As I was turning back, the person who called shot at
The bullet brushed against the back of his two-year-old son.
"You know the Khmer Rouge have not changed since 1979. They are always the same.
The same training, the same mind," said Sokhon.
"There is not really a solution to the Khmer Rouge problem. If we ask them to
defect, it does not work. We have to fight back or run away when they attack."
Miek Met had already suffered three different attacks in three different places.
"I always had to flee and change my home," she said.
"I will not go back to Reang Tael. I will stay in Kompong Lueng. It is safer.
I will not go to Vietnam. My parents were born in Cambodia. I had to leave during
the Khmer Rouge rule and I came back in 1981. Now, I will stay here."