Any Vietnamese national who crossed the Cambodian border during the Pol Pot regime was considered a spy and summarily “smashed,” former S-21 prison warden Kaing Guek Eav told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.
During the final day of questioning, which focused on the armed conflict between Cambodia and Vietnam, the former jailor, aka Duch, said that all Vietnamese citizens found in Cambodia after April 17, 1975, were immediately arrested.
“The real truth is that anyone who came into Cambodia from Vietnam, either as combatants or civilians, these were considered spies,” Duch told the court on Wednesday.
At S-21, Duch said he assigned a single interrogator, who spoke the language, to question the Vietnamese prisoners.
“I believe there was very little torture,” he said, but added that it is not likely that any of the Vietnamese prisoners were allowed to live.
“No one could escape. All of them were ordered to be smashed.”
The prisoners’ confessions were often read out on Radio Phnom Penh, he said. “The Communist Party of Kampuchea used the voices of the Vietnamese people and the Vietnamese language for propaganda purposes.”
He said that interrogators forced prisoners of war to say that there was a famine in Vietnam. “If we wanted them to say that the Vietnamese soldiers were starving and did not have enough food to eat, we made them say that in their confession.”
Duch also recalled a film made outside his home near the prison, in which Vietnamese prisoners of war were shown saluting the flag of Democratic Kampuchea.
According to official records from the prison shown to the court Wednesday, a total of 345 adult Vietnamese nationals were held in S-21 and eventually killed. Of those, 42 percent were classified as spies, 35 percent as soldiers and 23 percent as civilians.
Duch said it was possible that the children of Vietnamese prisoners were also held and killed at the prison, although it was not the policy of S-21 to record their detention.
“If the children came along with their parents, as a general principle, they would all be smashed,” he explained.
In a sample list of 17 Vietnamese prisoners shown to the court, Duch said that six had been captured within Vietnam’s borders. Two of those were ethnic Khmer Krom, and one was a Buddhist monk.
“Pol Pot opposed all religions as a general principle,” Duch explained when questioned about the capture of the monk. However, he added that during his tenure at S-21, “they never sent any monks to the office because of their beliefs in religion.”
He continued to say that Pol Pot regarded the Khmer Krom resistance movement in Vietnam, “as an enemy, because they had an affiliation with the US.”
The hearing is scheduled to continue on Monday, when the court will begin hearing evidence on operations at S-21 and the killing fields at Choeung Ek.