Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-officer testifies on navy activities at sea

Ex-officer testifies on navy activities at sea

People follow proceedings at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 earlier this month. ECCC
People follow proceedings at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 earlier this month. ECCC

Ex-officer testifies on navy activities at sea

Former Khmer Rouge military officer Prum Sarat yesterday described confrontations with Vietnamese forces in Cambodian waters, which led to the detention of Vietnamese civilians.

Sarat, who commanded a naval vessel with 38 crew members under Case 003 suspect Meas Muth’s Division 164, said that he wasn’t aware of any Vietnamese civilians living on islands disputed between Vietnam and Cambodia. But he did see what appeared to be captured civilians while docking at one of the islands.

“I did not witness the arrest but witnessed Vietnamese sitting there . . . There were five or six of them,” he said. “Their hands were not tied up because they could use their hands to eat rice.”

He said that while his boat was too large to capture Vietnamese vessels, two smaller Khmer Rouge boats had that assignment.

“Both units were in charge of capturing Vietnamese fishermen and seizing boats,” he said. “My unit had no directive to seize boats – if we fired, we had to sink them straight away.”

According to Sarat, the territorial waters of Democratic Kampuchea were a “hot battlefield”, with both sides taking prisoners. He said that in early 1975, Vietnamese forces captured several dozen Khmer Rouge troops by cutting them off from their supply lines. These POWs were returned to Cambodia in 1977.

When asked about the shift in policy that led to Vietnam being painted as enemies, Sarat said “the upper level trained us to distinguish enemies inside and outside [Cambodia]. The outside first enemy was the yuon and the second enemy was within the ranks, those considered traitors.”

Prosecutor Vincent de Wilde consistently pressed Sarat on his personal involvement in arrests of Vietnamese at sea, but Sarat denied receiving orders to hunt Vietnamese armed forces or civilians during his naval command, saying only that soldiers and sailors were instructed to be “vigilant” and “ready to fight”.

The alleged genocide of the Vietnamese is one of the main charges in the current Case 002/02 against ex-regime leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.


  • 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

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • 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

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the