Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Purges culled the loyal: expert

Purges culled the loyal: expert

Expert witness Stephen Morris gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday during Case 002/02. ECCC
Expert witness Stephen Morris gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday during Case 002/02. ECCC

Purges culled the loyal: expert

Expert witness Stephen Morris offered a nuanced view of the Cambodian-Vietnamese conflict during the Khmer Rouge era yesterday, reiterating his belief that Vietnam intended to control the Cambodian communist movement, but also noting that Cambodian forces antagonised the Vietnamese prior to the 1979 invasion.

Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are on trial for various crimes against humanity, including genocide against the Vietnamese, as well as internal purging of their own officers. Defence teams have long argued that the purges were a reaction to a legitimate attempt by Vietnam to overthrow the Cambodian government.

While Morris once again testified yesterday that the Vietnamese had hoped to control communism in Indochina in the 1970s, he also maintained that the Khmer Rouge purges had largely targeted loyal party members.

“The Vietnamese set up Cambodian communist structures, which they tried to dominate with their own Khmer Viet Minh agents, but Pol Pot and other leaders were aware of this strategy,” Morris said.

By around 1975, the researcher continued, almost all of these Vietnamese agents had already been removed from power.

“The purges and terror campaigns which took place after 1975 branded people who were loyal members of the system,” Morris said, calling Pol Pot “paranoid” and accusing him of conducting a “campaign of terror within party leadership”.

Morris, who was granted unprecedented access to archives of Soviet communications with Hanoi, testified that Vietnamese communists had hoped Nuon Chea would help overthrow the Khmer Rouge, with Vietnamese General Secretary Le Duan going so far as to refer to him as “our man” and a “personal friend”.

However, Morris said, these hopes were “groundless”.

Morris also testified that Vietnam had a far superior military and could have easily crushed the Khmer Rouge much earlier than 1979, but instead tried to negotiate with the regime, even while Khmer Rouge soldiers were slaughtering Vietnamese civilians.

Communications from the same Soviet archives between Le Duan and the Soviet ambassador seem to confirm this desire.

In October 1977 – just two weeks after a Cambodian raid into Vietnamese territory – Le Duan noted that Vietnam had the capability to “rout” Khmer Rouge forces, but that their response was to display patience and attempt to find a peaceful resolution.

Morris also said that one of the primary reasons Vietnam did not invade Cambodia earlier is because it was “impossible politically”.

When they finally did take Phnom Penh in 1979, he added, Vietnam went far beyond what the international community desired.

“Vietnam didn’t simply overthrow the regime; they occupied the country for 10 years and tried to create a regime in their own image in Cambodia.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement