When civil party Ry Pov willingly returned to Cambodia in 1976 after escaping to Vietnam during the civil war, he was stripped of his nationality and subjected to racial discrimination, he told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.
Pov, who was born in Takeo province, told the court he “didn’t know anything about the policies of the Khmer Rouge” when he, and more than 1,000 other families, entered into an exchange program to return to Cambodia.
“We had no idea that our property would be confiscated and we would be subjected to forced labour,” he said.
Pov told the court that when his group arrived across the border, Khmer Rouge cadres burned their money and identification documents. “They told us ‘Angkar will take care of you’,” he said.
But Pov said he immediately became a foreigner in his own country. Despite identifying as ethnically Khmer and having been born in Cambodia, he was marked as – and persecuted for being – ethnically Vietnamese.
Put to work in a mobile unit in Tram Kak district with other “yuon” – a term for Vietnamese many say is derogatory – the returnees were “exposed to very miserable treatment”.
Pov told the court he was “considered as an animal” and referred to as “contemptible enemy” or “yuon puppet”.
While the civil party stressed that he has always considered himself Cambodian, he said the “Khmer Rouge people . . . said we had Khmer bodies with Vietnamese heads”.
The group endured long working hours, little food and verbal and physical abuse. Arrests and mistreatment happened, Pov said, on a “daily basis”.
The civil party testified that he witnessed the death of a man in his mobile unit, with whom he had previously lived in the same village in Vietnam.
Stumbling across the man while tending to cattle, Pov said “he had blood all over his body and was gasping for air”.
“At that time, I could hear his voice shouting and asking that I tell his mother that he was dead”.
In a separate incident, Pov told the court that he saw dozens of men, who were “arrested and tied up”, being marched towards Kraing Ta Chan.
In the defence’s questioning of the civil party, Khieu Samphan’s counsel raised the issue that a man called Chau Ny, who testified in Case 002/01, was present at the signing of Pov’s civil party application.
Pov said he only met Ny when he filled out the application and was not told that he had previously testified.
Hearings will resume on Monday.