Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-KR spy tells court of his 1978 defection

Ex-KR spy tells court of his 1978 defection

A group of monks follow proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in April. ECCC
A group of monks follow proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in April. ECCC

Ex-KR spy tells court of his 1978 defection

A rice farmer from Svay Rieng province yesterday told the Khmer Rouge tribunal of his time as a Khmer Rouge spy who fled a vicious purge, ultimately defecting to the Vietnamese forces he was once tasked with monitoring.

Chhun Samorn, now in his late 50s, joined the Khmer Rouge as a messenger, and in 1976 was transferred to a special unit within the East Zone to gather intelligence on Vietnamese troops at the border.

“Wherever there were Vietnamese soldiers, I went there to collect intelligence information . . . about their bases, about their weaknesses and strengths, so we could plan our attack,” Samorn said.

But in 1978, after intense clashes at the border, Khmer Rouge soldiers from the capital and the Southwest Zone arrived and told troops in the Eastern Zone to lay down their guns and reveal where land mines were planted, before telling them they would be sent to Phnom Penh and re-armed.

Instead, the soldiers were loaded onto a truck and taken to a site at a farm rice, where they saw a fellow Eastern Zone cadre who had disappeared. “Then we knew that this was a lie.”

A group of 29, including Samorn, were tied up and “herded like animals” to an execution site.

He “was the only one who dared to protest”, and was struck with the butt of a rifle, partially paralysing his right arm. Four of his comrades were then separated and shot.

“We heard the screams, so we panicked and tried to escape,” Samorn said. “Those who could not escape were shot dead with their hands still tied up . . . Only three of us managed to escape and survive the ordeal.”

Samorn said he untied his hands and fled with two comrades, but three soldiers were in pursuit. The escapees jumped into a river and managed to dodge the soldiers’ fire before “running the whole night” to cross the Vietnamese border, where they were shot at again by the Khmer Rouge.

Far from “disembowelling prisoners”, as the Khmer Rouge had led Samorn to believe, the Vietnamese saved the escapees by firing back, bandaging their wounds and encouraging them to join the invasion force they were prepping to overthrow the Khmer Rouge.

While the Khmer Rouge had accused him of being a traitor, Samorn insisted yesterday he had “had confidence in the Khmer Rouge revolutionary army because I thought they were faithful to the Cambodian people”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the