Former Khmer Rouge naval officer Meas Veoun yesterday told the Khmer Rouge tribunal of battles at sea and orders to “smash” the Vietnamese.
However, Veoun, who was deputy commander of Division 1 and participated in the “liberation” of Phnom Penh in April 1975, said that orders were given not to harm Lon Nol regime soldiers, countering numerous claims that those with ties to the deposed regime were targeted for execution and ill-treatment.
“Regarding the order not to shoot-dead soldiers . . . I did receive that order,” he said, although when pressed by the defence whether such orders were also given to the militaries of other zones, Veoun said he could only speak about his division.
Veoun’s division was soon ordered out of the capital and became a naval division operating out of Kampong Som – now Preah Sihanouk province – and later Koh Kong, and was tasked with defending the territorial waters of Democratic Kampuchea from Vietnamese and Thai “encroachment”.
“During our defence of our territorial waters, that is to stop them fishing in our waters, we cooperated with other forces including Division 64,” Case 004 defendant Meas Muth’s division, he said. If a boat was seized it would be taken to Kampong Som to be dealt with by the “upper level”.
“I did not know the process that the upper level used,” he said.
Veoun, who claimed that his forces only opened fire if fired upon, recalled an episode of “deep encroachment” by Thai fishing vessels, of which “there could be 10 or 20 fishing boats escorted by warships”. When the incursion was reported to the upper level, an order came down to engage them in a battle, which lasted a week.
“After that big clash, the fishing activity from the Thai side seemed to reduce drastically,” the witness said.
Later, Veoun recalled a 1977 meeting in Kampong Speu province in which cadres were instructed to seek out internal and external “enemies”, including the Vietnamese.
However the witness maintained that “anyone who was loyal” and “those who did not exploit people” could live peacefully.
Veoun also testified to hearing from the division level about a coup to depose Pol Pot, purportedly organised by Sao Phim and “others from the North Zone”, although he did not know the details.
Upon further questioning, the witness testified to attending a rally in Phnom Penh at which Pol Pot and Nuon Chea spoke, but said the subject was just the reorganisation of the military and congratulatory speeches “and that is all”.
Asked whether he was aware of a plan to eliminate the Vietnamese, Veoun said that because the Vietnamese intended “to cause trouble” and lived dishonestly, “they were peacefully sent back to their country” at first.
“Later on, we were instructed that the Vietnamese had to be smashed because they did not return to their country,” he said.
Testifying that people were educated by the regime on the “contradictions” between Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese – or yuon as they were often called – Veoun added, “The spirit of revenge still lives on . . . We hate the yuon people.”