The former wife of a Khmer Rouge commune chief told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Monday that children of ethnic Vietnamese mothers were systematically killed because they had been breast-fed with Vietnamese milk.
Sin Chhem, 79, whose husband was chief of Svay Chrum district’s Svay Yea commune in the Eastern Zone from 1976 until he was purged a year later, said that mixed Vietnamese-Cambodian families were targeted for killing in the commune, with the most brutal policies handed down to families with an ethnic Vietnamese wife.
“Those who had Vietnamese wives and children, their wives were taken away to be killed. I felt pity for them. At least they should have kept their children alive,” Ms. Chhem said.
“They said that those children who fed from the breast…from the mother would not be kept alive; they must be killed. Only the father was kept alive,” she said, adding that the children of an ethnic Vietnamese father and a Cambodian mother were generally spared.
The witness said she did not see the mothers and children being arrested, but was informed of the arrests by a cadre named Savoeun, who participated in the killing.
Under questioning from Victor Koppe—a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, who is on trial alongside Khieu Samphan for crimes including the genocide of ethnic Vietnamese—Ms. Chhem admitted that she never directly saw ethnic Vietnamese being murdered during Democratic Kampuchea. However, she did recall seeing the corpses of people she knew who had been taken away by the Khmer Rouge.
“Have you ever, between 1975 and 1979, before your own eyes, [seen] someone being killed? Did you ever see that with your own eyes?” Mr. Koppe asked.
“I did not. However, people were killed and buried to the south of my house,” the witness replied.
“In fact, they were pounding the rice and then they were arrested and taken away and killed and before that they were under watch for quite some time. Actually, a dog uncovered the burial site and ate the corpses. I saw the scattered remains as well as the clothes,” she said.