Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pol Pot feud fueled KR bloodshed: Duch

Pol Pot feud fueled KR bloodshed: Duch

Pol Pot feud fueled KR bloodshed: Duch

S-21 chief describes clash with Vietnamese leader Le Duan over communism in Indochina.

FORMER Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told Cambodia's war crimes court Tuesday that the bloodshed of the Khmer Rouge years was in part the result of a "long and protracted" conflict between regime leader Pol Pot and Vietnamese Communist leader Le Duan.

"The blood of the Vietnamese and Khmer flowed because of the conflict between these two people," said Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his revolutionary name Duch.

He said Le Duan wanted Cambodian and Vietnamese communists to join forces under the Indochinese Communist Party, while Pol Pot wanted the Khmer Rouge to be independent.

He noted, however, that his description of the feud with Vietnam was not an attempt to cast Pol Pot as "the greatest patriot of the country", saying that "more than 1 million people were killed at the hands" of the Khmer Rouge leader.

Duch's remarks came during the second day of testimony from former war correspondent Nayan Chanda, who on Tuesday answered questions about the evolution of the relationship between Democratic Kampuchea and Vietnam.

Chanda said the relationship was one of "tactical alliance" before the Khmer Rouge came to power, arguing that Vietnamese leaders did not publicly declare war against Democratic Kampuchea in 1975 because they hoped tensions with Khmer Rouge leaders "could be contained".

He cited as an example of this "alliance" a forcible repatriation arrangement in which people who had fled from Cambodia to Vietnam at the beginning of the regime were turned over to the Khmer Rouge in exchange for cattle.

Asked if he believed the Vietnamese soldiers knew that the repatriated people would likely be executed, Chanda said, "It is to me very clear that the Vietnamese undertook this repatriation ... in the full knowledge of what might be awaiting" them.

By the end of 1977, the relationship deteriorated into open conflict when Vietnamese leaders concluded that tensions with the Khmer Rouge stemmed from a "fundamental political dispute" that could only be resolved by "internal change" or regime change at the hands of the Vietnamese themselves, Chanda said.

Duch's international co-lawyer Francois Roux asked Chanda whether he believed "an armed international conflict existed between the Cambodian and Vietnamese armed forces from April 1975", noting that all Vietnamese prisoners sent to S-21 could be considered victims of war crimes if the court determined that such a conflict commenced as soon as the Khmer Rouge came to power.

"If war can occur without any declaration, then Cambodia and Vietnam were at war in April 1975," Chanda said.

Roux said the question ultimately "does not have much consequence on Duch's guilt", as the prison chief has already acknowledged "that there was an open conflict between Vietnam and Cambodia" beginning in 1978 and that Vietnamese killed at S-21 after it broke out "were indeed victims of war crimes".

Etcheson testimony resumes

Also Tuesday, genocide expert Craig Etcheson continued his testimony, and Roux again accused prosecutors of asking questions that had already been raised during the investigation phase of the trial. 

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