A former bodyguard for Khmer Rouge officials told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Monday that the wives and children of cadre who escaped to Vietnam were routinely arrested and killed.
Bun Loeng Chauy, now 63, joined the communist guerillas in the jungles of Mondolkiri province in 1968 and went on to hold various positions in the local Khmer Rouge administration, including serving as a bodyguard for his uncle Ka Sy, the secretary of Keo Seima district. Despite previously having told court investigators and the Documentation Center of Cambodia that he had served as the district’s deputy secretary, the witness denied this on Monday, claiming the interviewers must have misunderstood him.
Under questioning from prosecutors, Mr. Loeng Chauy told the story of 18 Khmer Rouge officials in Mondolkiri who fled to Vietnam due to their close ties with Ka Sy, who was purged and killed in 1977 after the regime got wind of his failure to report a fellow cadre for “moral misconduct.”
“Those people were implicated in the network of Ka Sy. [He] was killed although he was a party member and those people were inducted into the party by Ka Sy. They became scared after they knew that Ka Sy had been killed and for that reason they fled,” Mr. Loeng Chauy said.
Their wives and children went missing soon after the men fled across the border, he added.
“To my knowledge, after the husbands fled, the next day the family members, wives and children were arrested,” Mr. Loeng Chauy said.
“They disappeared since. I did not know what had happened to them. However, if they were alive, I would have seen them. I did not know whether they were sent to Tuol Sleng prison or if they were executed along the way,” he said.
“If the husband was accused of betrayal, then the wife and the children would not be spared, and they would be arrested and killed.”
When prosecutors showed the witness a list of people from Mondolkiri province who were sent in November 1977 to Phnom Penh’s infamous Tuol Sleng security center—where more than 12,000 people died during the Pol Pot era—he identified several names as the wives of the 18 men who defected.
The witness went on to recall how the Khmer Rouge had instigated attacks against Vietnam prior to the overthrow of the regime.
“Although the Vietnamese did not fight back, later on they used the loudspeaker to communicate to one another, and the Vietnamese side [asked] why [we] attacked because we were friends, because in the past we used to share a cigarette,” he said.