The son of a former Khmer Rouge official from the “traitorous” East Zone, which was ravaged by purges, told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday he still did not know whether his father was dead or alive.
Meas Sourn, 64, who is testifying in the internal purges segment in the trial against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, once worked as a messenger for his father, Chan.
Chan was deputy to East Zone secretary Sao Phim, who was famously accused of orchestrating a coup against the Khmer Rouge leadership. Phim later committed suicide after the forces of the party centre had purged his subordinates.
“All of the cadres were to be purged . . . even Sao Phim, he was not spared, so forget about the subordinates,” Sourn said.
“Mostly they were accused of betraying the party and they were accused of colluding with the yuon,” he added, using a term for Vietnamese people considered derogatory by some.
Sourn spoke of how messengers and their chiefs eerily began to disappear, leading up to the fateful events of May 25, 1978. That day, workers from his unit went out to a site to harvest vegetables, but they were blocked by a group of soldiers from the centre.
The soldiers dug trenches to counter the advancement of the Vietnamese as Sourn’s concern deepened – if they could not access the vegetable plantation, they could not feed themselves.
“Even pregnant women who had to be sent to hospital to deliver their babies, they were not allowed to do so,” he said.
Only trucks loaded with rubber were allowed through the blockade, while all weapons were confiscated and stored in a pagoda.
Sourn said Sao Phim had penned a letter, ordering them to be vigilant in the face of an alleged attack to overthrow the zone leadership headed by Son Sen, one of the Khmer Rouge inner circle.
Later, Sao Phim was painted as a traitor in a rain of propaganda pamphlets. “There were helicopters and airplanes that dropped leaflets in the East Zone, and in the leaflets, it was said that Sao Phim was a traitor, selling his head to the Vietnamese,” Sourn said.
His father Chan, however, remained deputy.
“Later on I met him, I saw him in 1978 when the water receded . . . he did not say much, but he said that he had to go to Phnom Penh,” he said.
“I do not know whether he is dead or he is alive.”