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Witness recalls massacres at KRT

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

Witness recalls massacres at KRT

Massacres of Vietnamese in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces were recounted yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, as the court continued to hear evidence on the alleged genocide of the ethnic group under Democratic Kampuchea.

Witness Prum Sarun, continuing testimony from the previous day about purges of Vietnamese and Lon Nol soldiers in his Battambang village, recalled that children of Khmer Rouge cadres armed with rifles would carry out arrests.

‘They were young children. They were about 8 or 9 years old, and when they carried guns, the [barrel] of the guns touched the ground,” he said, adding that he “knew they arrested people, took them away and killed [them]”.

According to Sarun, “ranking officers” who served under the Lon Nol regime were taken away and killed at a nearby mountain, where he saw a soldier and his wife shot dead.

Sarun, himself a former officer in Lon Nol’s army, said the regime kept close watch on him. “They instructed me to make a biography once a year,” he said.

Shortly before concluding his testimony, Sarun revealed he “worked together in the field” with singer Teth Sambath, and saw him taken away.

“His arms were tied behind his back . . . Since then, he disappeared,” he said, later adding he had never met Teth Sambath’s son, a former Post reporter and filmmaker who shares his father’s name and whose work has been used as evidence at the tribunal.

Following Sarun’s testimony, witness Um Sun testified on the massacres of ethnic Vietnamese at the Wat Khsach pagoda in Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng district, providing a parallel account to that of previous witness Sien Sung regarding an episode in 1978.

About 10 years older than Sung, who was a teenager at the time, Sun was “the adult” mentioned in Sung’s testimony, and in whose presence the younger man had “dared to look at the incident” – the massacre of Vietnamese families and the disembowelment of a teenager from their village named Chan Tha.

“The executions started at about 6 or 7pm, and it lasted until 10pm,” Sun said yesterday, later adding that three executioners “took turns”.

“There was a Vietnamese family . . . They had a granddaughter named Chan Tha, and they all had been taken away and killed at Khsach pagoda and their gall bladders were removed.”

“I saw gall bladders hung up against the coconut tree leaf wall. I saw bamboo clubs, wooden clubs left there,” Sun later testified, describing evidence of the massacre, including shallow graves with exposed limbs.

However, Sun, who is in his 60s, was unable to provide all the same details previously given by Sung, and at times gave confused or contradicting testimony.

Nuon Chea defender Victor Koppe attempted to ask Sun if he was lying, but was cut off mid-question by trial chamber president Nil Nonn, who forbade the question, and warned Koppe not to use the forum to “draw his own conclusions” or to “frighten the witness”.

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