The wives and children of 18 Mondulkiri men who fled the Khmer Rouge to Vietnam in 1977 were arrested the next day, with some sent to Phnom Penh’s notorious Tuol Sleng prison, the Khmer Rouge tribunal heard yesterday.
Witness Bun Loeng Chauy, 63, said that under the Democratic Kampuchea regime, those with suspected Vietnamese ties were prime targets for arrest as he gave evidence in Case 002/02 against former leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
A former bodyguard to his uncle Ka Sy, the district secretary of Keo Seima, Chauy told of how he was arrested and detained near Phnom Kraol security centre in February of 1977 after his uncle was accused of overlooking an “immoral act” committed by a district member.
Ka Sy was also detained in Koh Nhek district before he was taken away and killed, while his relatives and neighbours were also detained, according to Chauy.
Chauy described how 18 men who were part of Ka Sy’s network fled to Vietnam in 1977 when they learned of his execution.
One of them, Sroes Nhon, was chief of the K-16 office in Sector 105. On November 23, 1977, his wife, Kim Hin, was taken to S-21 prison.
Chauy maintained that Kim Hin had done “nothing” to warrant arrest and was captured because of her husband.
“If the husband [was] accused of betrayal, the wife and children would not be spared,” he said.
However, Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe objected to the prosecution’s line of questioning, saying it was “incomplete” to define Kim Hin simply as the wife of Nhon when she and other women were primarily listed as combatants on the S-21 records.
“It’s a bit sexist, actually,” Koppe said. “To say they were arrested only as wives . . . is incorrect. It seems they were arrested because they were combatants.”
Chauy said he was sent to a worksite – where he said he was not allowed to leave, but was not physically restrained – that passed by the Trapeang Pring execution site. He saw what appeared to be bulldozed burial pits but did not witness executions.
Chauy also recalled how, in 1974, when he was harvesting rice, his weapon and those of other bodyguards were taken away in anticipation of a visit by 002/02 co-defendant Khieu Samphan.
“I was told they did not trust us since he had his own bodyguards,” Chauy said. “I saw the car convoy, but I didn’t see him.”