Expert Witness Details Attacks on Innocent Vietnamese by KR

Khmer Rouge soldiers carried out numerous brutal attacks on Vietnamese territory during the Pol Pot regime, killing civilian men, women and children, expert witness Nayan Chanda testified at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday.

Mr Chanda, who worked with the respected Far Eastern Economic Review magazine, is the author of “Brother Enemy,” a history of international relations in Indochina-particularly Cambo-

dia and Vietnam-during the 1970s. At the court on Monday, he described “nibbling attacks” by the Khmer Rouge along the border with Vietnam in 1977.

In Ha Tien province, situated along the Mekong River in southeastern Vietnam, the former journalist said, he spoke with survivors of a vicious attack by Khmer Rouge forces.

“I must say I was shaken by the accounts of the atrocities that were committed during this attack. I had never heard of such brutalities perpetrated by man on women, children, innocent people,” he told the court.

Mr Chanda said that he still has the occasional nightmare about what he saw there. Al-

though he did not offer an estimate of how many people were killed in the attack, he wrote in his book that he saw “scores” of bodies.

“That is a visit that is absolutely ingrained in my memory. I have never seen in my reporting career so many bodies of civilians killed most brutally,” he continued.

The only motive for the attack on the civilian population that he found, Mr Chanda said, was some Khmer graffiti scribbled with charcoal on a destroyed hut: “This is our land,” it read.

During his testimony, Mr Chanda referred to the racist attitude of the Khmer Rouge, and many regular Cambodians, to-

ward the Vietnamese, which he attributed to a long history of territorial disputes.

Many Cambodians saw the Vietnamese as “aggressive, ex-

pansionist, and brutal,” Mr Chanda said. “There are many sort of folk stories used to explain the Vietnamese cruelty towards the Cambodians.”

He pointed to a Phnom Penh Radio broadcast on May 10, 1978, when Pol Pot called for the deaths of every single person in Vietnam. “That broadcast is possibly the most virulent exposition on the Khmer Rouge policy towards Vietnam,” Mr Chanda said.

Mr Chanda also spoke about conflicts between the two countries over islands near the so-called Brevié line that demarcated the marine border between Cambodia and Vietnam. When Vietnamese forces reclaimed Phu Quoc and Tho Chu islands in 1975, for example, they found “human remains, suggesting that people were killed who were found [by the Khmer Rouge forces] on those islands.”

The activities of the Khmer Rouge toward Vietnam and its nationals is relevant to the war crimes charges against four of the five defendants in the tribunal.

On Monday, no direct connection was made between the Cambodian-Vietnamese conflicts and S-21 prison chairman Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, who is currently in the defendant’s chair. Activities at S-21 were mentioned only briefly, when Mr Chanda was asked if he had seen confessions of Vietnamese prisoners during a visit to the prison.

“I had personally seen sheaves of paper in my first trip to Tuol Sleng,” he answered. “I was told that there were some confessions by Vietnamese.”

However, Mr Chanda said he only read a small number of confessions, and could not recall specifically if they were made by Vietnamese prisoners.

When asked to respond to Mr Chanda’s initial testimony and questioning by chamber judges, Duch said that he had very little knowledge of armed conflict between the two countries before Cambodia cut off diplomatic relations in December 1977.

“The clashes between the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the Vietnamese Communist Party, I heard it but not in detail,” Duch said, adding that he was only aware of armed conflict on islands in the Gulf of Thailand and in southern Mondolkiri province.

Mr Chanda is scheduled to continue his testimony for a final day today, after which the testimony of Khmer Rouge scholar and prosecution investigator Craig Etcheson will resume.

 

 

 

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