Former Khmer Rouge military officer Prum Sarat continued testifying before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday, providing details on how orders passed through military chains of command in his division while distancing himself from alleged crimes.
Sarat, who commanded a naval vessel with 38 crew members under Case 003 suspect Meas Muth’s Division 164, described the territorial waters of Democratic Kampuchea as a “hot battlefield” with Vietnam.
While Khmer Rouge forces allegedly attacked both Thai and Vietnamese vessels and civilians that crossed into Cambodia, Sarat said that the “upper echelon” considered that Thais “were not the strong enemy, because they could be defeated by our troops”, while there were instructions “to be careful with the enemies from the east [Vietnam], because they could penetrate into Cambodia”.
Regarding the seizure of vessels “the matter was referred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”, Sarat said, later recalling an instance in which two people – one of them Vietnamese – were arrested, although he was unaware of how the cases were dealt with after that point.
Sarat went on to describe a strict hierarchical chain of command which he says his company followed to the letter, which is why – according to Sarat – no members of his company were sent to S-21 or other security centres for “re-education”, although he said individuals in other companies “who were sent never returned”.
According to Sarat, orders came down from the division and regimental level, and that a committee composed of Meas Muth and three others issued orders to the division. Reports to higher levels, including the “upper echelon”, were sent by telegrams with specific code numbers.
“The telegram [from number] 87, as far as I can remember, is from the upper echelon,” Sarat said.
Office 870 was the office from which the Khmer Rouge’s standing committee, of which Case 002/01 co-defendant Nuon Chea was a member, conducted its affairs.