Parties at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday sparred over documentary evidence regarding Democratic Kampuchea’s conflict with Vietnam, with both sides attempting to contextualise or discredit documents presented by the opposition.
The defence teams have long argued that a legitimate Vietnamese threat to Cambodia’s autonomy precipitated the conflict with Vietnam as well as internal targeting of suspected Vietnamese agents. The prosecution, meanwhile, has sought to present evidence that paints Cambodia as the instigator of the conflict.
Prosecutor Dale Lysak yesterday read from the minutes of a Khmer Rouge ministry meeting that the defence had previously submitted as evidence of Cambodia’s “benign intent” towards Vietnam. However, as Lysak noted: “Vietnam is not referred to by its name, but no less than 11 times – every time Vietnam is mentioned – they’re described as ‘the contemptible’.”
Lysak concluded by arguing that Cambodia’s indiscriminate cross-border raids into Vietnamese territory were much more severe than any Vietnamese aggressions, saying that comparing the two was creating a “false equivalency”.
Khieu Samphan defender Anta Guisse, however, presented a different narrative. She referred to telegrams presented by the prosecution and sent by high-ranking officer Sao Phim – later branded a traitor – saying the prosecution only “partially cited” the documents, crucially leaving out lines that reported Vietnamese soldiers had shot at Cambodian civilians.
She also reminded the court to be aware of the “information war, or media war being waged by the DK side as well as the Vietnamese side”.
Samphan and fellow Khmer Rouge leader Nuon Chea are on trial for various crimes against humanity, including genocide against ethnic Vietnamese and internal purges.
In the afternoon, witness 2-TCW-1065 continued his testimony, expounding on widespread purges, and maintaining that Pol Pot was the true traitor.
“People were killed; chiefs in the division were killed. And I conclude that those that killed these people were traitors,” the witness said in reference to the internal purges.
The witness, who was related to Sao Phim, last week denied that Phim had planned a coup. Yesterday, he said he never gave information to the Vietnamese prior to his defection, and claimed he defected in response to Pol Pot’s traitorous actions.