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Persecution of Vietnamese recounted at KRT

Prum Sarun gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh during Case 002/02.
Prum Sarun gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday in Phnom Penh during Case 002/02. ECCC

Persecution of Vietnamese recounted at KRT

Parties continued to explore the alleged existence of a Khmer Rouge policy to target the ethnic Vietnamese as testimony continued in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s Case 002/02 yesterday.

Witness testimonies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday shed further light on the roll-out of an alleged policy of purging ethnic Vietnamese in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Civil party Choeng Yang Chat testified under questioning by Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe that Khmer Rouge cadres had checked his family’s record book – which stated their Vietnamese heritage – before they were evacuated from their home village to another in Kampong Chhnang where the rest of his family was later executed.

However, when invited to give a concluding statement, Chat didn’t elaborate on any injuries resulting from these events. Instead he directed a question – ultimately unanswered – to the defendants: “I suffered from the loss of my parents and family members, and I am alone with head injuries. If they were in my position, how would they feel?”

Earlier efforts by parties to confirm from Chat’s testimony that his persecution was part of a deliberate anti-Vietnamese policy were unsuccessful. However, when Koppe directly confronted him with the suggestion that “there is zero evidence to suggest your family was killed because they were Vietnamese”, the question was struck down by Trial Chamber president Nil Nonn.

The subsequent witness, Prum Sarun, a former soldier under the Lon Nol regime, further detailed the execution of ethnic Vietnamese in his Battambang village in 1975. Examined by the prosecution, he recounted seeing one of the village’s handful of Vietnamese families being tied and marched away by Khmer Rouge youths, and later coming upon their decomposing bodies at an alleged killing site nearby in Kampong Kor commune.

“I did not witness the killing, but saw many dead bodies in the area,” the 74-year-old told the court. “I saw bloodstains on the ground and then fled.”

After that time, he explained, all the Vietnamese disappeared from his village. However, like Chat, Sarun was unable to corroborate whether they were purged as a result of their ethnicity, despite saying that the command came from the regiment leader.

“I only saw Vietnamese people arrested, but nobody told me any reasons, and of course I did not dare ask,” he explained. “They killed people without mercy, so how could I possibly ask for reasons?”

The court also began to hear evidence from Sarun of the alleged “smashing” of former high-ranking Lon Nol officers in the village – a campaign in which he explained that he feared for his own safety.

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