Former Khmer Rouge soldier Prum Sarat yesterday recalled at the Khmer Rouge tribunal a battlefield meeting between himself and Prince Norodom Chantaraingsey, a renowned royal who served as a general under Lon Nol and whose fate remains a mystery.
Sarat told the court that he served as a company chief in command of about 100 soldiers, and reported to Meas Muth – the former Khmer Rouge navy commander charged in the tribunal’s Case 003.
During the offensive against Phnom Penh in 1975, Sarat said, “soldiers were injured and died . . . on a daily basis”.
Following the fall of the capital on April 17, Sarat said that the “upper echelon” ordered his company to Kampong Som, in present-day Preah Sihanouk province. On the five-day journey south, Sarat recalled an encounter with Chantaraingsey, reputed for being one of the most effective generals in Lon Nol’s Khmer Republic.
“White flags were not raised yet” in Kampong Seila, where Chantaraingsey’s men had still not surrendered – a version of events corroborated by historical accounts of the prince. However, soon after a landmine blast, a group of soldiers with white flags approached Sarat.
“Those soldiers said that Norodom Chantaraingsey got injured in the explosion,” he said.
“I asked the medics to wrap the wounds for Chantaraingsey and I told them to rest in that place where we met, because me and my soldiers had to move on [to] Kampong Som,” Sarat said, later adding “my company did not touch a single [Lon Nol] soldier after April 1975”.
What became of Chantaraingsey is still unknown. Sarat’s division later became a naval unit, in which he commanded a ship with 38 crew members.
Prior to Sarat’s testimony, civil party Doung Oeurn, who testified to having married a former Vietnamese soldier named “Chhuy” prior to 1975, corroborated the testimony of several witnesses from Prey Veng’s Svay Anthor district who had described the disappearances of both her husband and the ethnically Vietnamese wife and children of fellow villager Lach Ny.
“They were taken away and they never returned,” she said, adding that in cases of mixed families, the children of ethnically Vietnamese mothers would not be spared.
The alleged persecution of the ethnic Vietnamese forms part of the basis for the charges of genocide in the current Case 002/02 against ex-regime leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
Cross-examined by the defence, however, Oeurn was confronted with a prior statement that indicated Chhuy sold opium, though Oeurn denied recalling him selling anything other than poultry.