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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness recounts brutal execution of VN teenager

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Sien Sung gives testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh. ECCC

Witness recounts brutal execution of VN teenager

Sien Sung, witness to an alleged 1978 massacre of ethnic Vietnamese at Wat Khsach pagoda in Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng district, concluded his testimony yesterday, providing vivid details of the disembowelment of a girl he knew.

Sung, who was about 18 years old in 1978, had previously testified that he did not know the identities of victims transported by ox carts to the pagoda as he “did not know which villages or communes they gathered them from”.

However, Sung did identify a girl around his age named “Chan Tha” and her grandparents as the only ethnically Vietnamese family from his village in Sangvoeuy commune.

A few days before witnessing the executions, he heard that Chan Tha had supposedly left for Phnom Penh to “learn tailoring”. But the story proved to be an apparent lie by the regime, as he recognised Chan Tha among the victims at the pagoda.

While most were killed with bamboo sticks and thrown into pits, “Chan Tha wasn’t killed at the pit”, he said.

“They removed her gall bladder and placed it in a container of wine to drink it. She was left there,” he added.

A kerosene lamp hanging from a tree branch allowed Sung to “see clearly” the torture of Chan Tha, the axe used to cut her open and that the soldiers carrying out the barbarism “were about 14, 15, 16” years old.

“The [rifle] butts were dragging on the ground; [the soldiers] were too small to carry those rifles,” Sung recalled.

Sung went on to recount in detail how Chan Tha’s gallbladder was removed.

“I saw they put a scarf in her mouth, they wrestled her legs behind her head and they actually cut open her back,” he said.

In a seeming attempt to impeach Sung’s testimony, the defence’s cross-examination pressed him on details of the pagoda complex, the number of victims, how he knew the victims were Vietnamese, how he came upon the incident and how long he remained to watch.

Sung, for the most part, was unable to provide specific answers as he either did not know or could not remember. When asked if he actually witnessed any executions, including that of Chan Tha, he asserted: “I saw the execution at the site; it is true what I saw.”

The trial chamber adjourned until evidentiary hearings for the segment of Case 002/02 on the treatment of Vietnamese resumes on November 30, while appeal hearings for case 002/01 are set to begin November 16th before the Supreme Court Chamber.

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