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Witness recalls disappearances of Vietnamese

Members of the audience follow court proceedings earlier this month at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC
Members of the audience follow court proceedings earlier this month at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC

Witness recalls disappearances of Vietnamese

Following three and a half days of closed sessions, the Khmer Rouge tribunal resumed public hearings yesterday afternoon with civil party Lach Kry testifying by video-call on the disappearances of ethnic Vietnamese in his Prey Veng province village.

Born in 1947, Kry testified that, while the Khmer Rouge first occupied the village in 1970, disappearances of Vietnamese didn’t occur until the later years of the regime. Among the victims, he said, were two men, named Van Ngang and Chhuy, and Kry’s sister-in-law, Sam Sa – wife to his brother, Lach Ni – and her four children.

The alleged genocide of ethnic Vietnamese is one of the charges in the current Case 002/02 against former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

In 1977, Kry “was harvesting rice near the house of Lach Ni when his wife was arrested” by three militia members, one of whom he knew by name.

“They made a call for Sa to go for [a] study session, so they put Sa on a horse cart,” he continued, saying the four children were also fetched and taken away at the same time.

Kry claimed that at least 20 people witnessed the arrest, including his brother Ni.

“When his wife was arrested, he was also there; he fainted and collapsed . . . He fainted in the field,” Kry recalled, saying that when his brother regained consciousness, he walked away from his work, returning some time later.

But for “five months he was like a psychiatric [patient]”, Kry added.

Earlier this month, witness Thang Pal had also testified that a man in the same village named Lach Ni became mentally unstable and sobbed for a fortnight following the disappearance of his wife and children.

Kry – again corroborating Pal’s earlier testimony – told the court of an alleged Khmer Rouge policy by which children of ethnic Vietnamese mothers would also be killed.

“If the wife was Vietnamese, then she, with the children, was taken away . . . It was a widely known fact,” Kry said.

Meanwhile, Ngang and Chhuy were supposedly tasked by militia to work in the forest cutting vines but “disappeared ever since”.

Following the disappearances, Kry testified that his brother remarried in a mass ceremony of 20 couples at the Svay Anthor pagoda.

In 1978, his family, as well as the majority of the village, were evacuated to Battambang province, where Kry’s parents and other relatives ultimately died. In all, Kry said he lost 11 family members.

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