Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Witness recounts Khmer Rouge purge in 1978

Witness recounts Khmer Rouge purge in 1978

Witness recounts Khmer Rouge purge in 1978

On a single day in November, 1978, 140 Khmer Rouge cadres from Mondulkiri province were sent to Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 prison, witness Sao Sarun told the court yesterday.

Prosecutors were attempting to elucidate testimony from the former district secretary about the massive purges from the area in the late 1970s before the Vietnamese swept the regime out of power.

Sao Sarun told the court he communicated directly with Case 002 co-accused Brother No 2 Nuon Chea and Pol Pot about the arrest and detention of cadres in the area, and visited the leaders in Phnom Penh on a number of occasions.

“We discussed the issue concerning managing the forces and the masses, and had to raise awareness about people about how they could have self-sufficiency and advise forces how to strengthen the defence of border areas,” Sao Sarun said, adding that on one occasion, he discussed “economic matters” with Khieu Samphan.

The 80-year-old’s testimony was adjourned midway through the day due to his ill-health, and another witness, former child soldier Khoem Ngoin, took the stand.

“I joined the [Khmer Rouge revolution] army with other friends. I didn’t understand much, I simply went along with others,” said Khoem Ngoin, who joined the revolution when he was 15.

He spoke of being “terrified” about deserting the movement, fearing that retribution would be meted out against his family.

“My mother could not leave the co-operative to visit me, and I could not visit her,” Khoem Ngoin said. “At that time, religious practice was not allowed. We were not allowed to practise any religious ceremonies. Even currency was abolished.”

Khoem Ngoin went on to work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was led by Ieng Sary at the time.

There, his task was to accompany foreign delegations, including those from China.

“With guests, we were not allowed to talk to guests about politics and wherever we went we could not simply move around freely,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]


  • Malaysia MP accused of ‘influencing law’

    Malaysian Member of Parliament (MP) Larry Sng arrived in Siem Reap early on Wednesday, in what was slammed by one NGO as efforts by Kuala Lumpur to “influence Cambodian law”. The Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh requested on January 30 “cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign

  • Ministries begin measures to offset EU’s EBA decision

    In the wake of the EU’s controversial announcement this week that it has begun the withdrawal process for Cambodia’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential agreement, government ministries and political analysts continued to share their reactions and economic mitigation plans in preparation for the

  • Emirates launches route connecting Phnom Penh, Bangkok

    Emirates will launch a daily service on June 1 linking Phnom Penh (PNH) and Bangkok (BKK). The service from Phnom Penh to Dubai, via Bangkok, will provide more flight options to passengers travelling between the capitals of Cambodia and Thailand. Travellers from the Southeast Asian nations

  • US Embassy urged to stop ‘disrespecting sovereignty’

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Saturday to respect the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after it called former opposition leader Kem Sokha “an innocent man” – a move deemed to be “disrespecting Cambodia’s