A witness close to Meas Muth – the former naval commander charged with genocide by the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday – yesterday implicated the Case 003 suspect in the killings of civilians and refugees as the court continued to hear evidence in Case 002/02 against defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
The anonymous witness, “2-TCW-1000”, recounted that he had served in the navy of Democratic Kampuchea from 1975 to 1979. During this time, he was stationed in Division 164 on the coast around Kampot province, where alleged offences took place against civilians and soldiers under the command of ex-navy chief Muth.
International co-prosecutor Nicholas Koumjian questioned 2-TCW-1000 about practices for dealing with vessels carrying Thai and Vietnamese fishermen and refugees, who were frequently intercepted in waters around O’Chheuteal port and Poulo Wai island.
“If we arrested yuons [Vietnamese], we killed them . . . sometimes on the island,” the witness was quoted as saying in a previous statement to the Documentation Center of Cambodia read aloud by Koumjian. “They were mostly refugees . . . escaping from the war. When we arrested them, we shot them dead. It was the order from the division.”
The witness later corroborated other accounts put forward by the prosecution, including a record signed by Muth stating that 120 Vietnamese were arrested and shot in March 1978.
In particular, he recalled an incident in which a Vietnamese couple were brought into the port with their infant. “The baby cried loudly because the mother was tied [up],” he explained. “Then the baby was breast fed and the soldiers threw [it] into the sea.”
Rather than being killed at sea, large groups of Vietnamese were usually brought ashore so that their confessions could be broadcast on radio before execution, he explained. However, unlike Vietnamese civilians and fishermen, Thai vessels were typically turned back.
Probing by judge Lavergne elicited details of the treatment of former soldiers and officials from the Lon Nol regime.
As the witness explained, after the “liberation” of April 1975 in Kampot, soldiers with links to the so-called “former tendency”, such as family members or suspected CIA and KGB agents, were sent to mobile units, while those accused of more serious infringements were sent to a nearby re-education centre.
Himself the son of a soldier, the witness explained that he had been spared this fate.
“I was trying my best to refashion myself at that time,” he said. “I did my utmost to work. And seeing this, I was not relocated to the mobile unit and was instead trusted by the regiment, so I was instead kept.”
The testimony of witness 2-TCW-1000 will continue on January 5 after a court adjournment.