In a 1977 speech, Khieu Samphan announced that intellectuals were to be “eliminated” and warned that anyone refusing to toe the line of the Pol Pot regime would be killed, a former Lon Nol soldier told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.
The civil party, identified only as 2-TCCP-1063 due to his role in ongoing investigations, served in the U.S.-backed Khmer Republic military in Svay Rieng province before the regime was overrun by the ultra-communist Khmer Rouge. He was soon thrown in jail, where he remained for nine months, before being transferred to Battambang province.
While en route through Phnom Penh, he was dropped off at the Chbar Ampov market where then-head of state Khieu Samphan—who is on trial alongside the regime’s second-in-command Nuon Chea for crimes including genocide —delivered a chilling speech.
“He said that we made a revolution in order to eliminate the Lon Nol regime,” the civil party said. “Another point was to eliminate the capitalists, the feudalists, the intellectuals. He didn’t want them to exist—that’s what he meant in his speech.”
“Later on, he said in our revolution we would not allow different classes of people—that is the rich and the poor—and that everyone would be equal,” he added.
Khieu Samphan then told the group that they had been evacuated from the “claws” of the “Yuon” —an epithet for Vietnamese people perceived by many to have racist connotations, particularly during the Khmer Rouge—and that those who failed to obey the regime’s orders would be eliminated.
“Another point of his advice was that when we arrived in…Battambang we all should respect the party lines, that is to respect the party line strictly, and not to betray the party,” he said.
“If we betrayed the party, and the party knew it, then we would be killed because such people would be no use to keep.”
First-hand evidence linking Khieu Samphan, an intellectual who achieved his doctorate in Paris, to crimes during the Khmer Rouge’s reign are rare in the courtroom. He has painted himself as a nominal head of state who was detached from decision-making.
The civil party, who claimed he lost numerous family members as a result of their links to the former regime, said he was left shaken by Khieu Samphan’s warning.
“I was panicked. I felt afraid that I would commit any wrongdoing because based on my observation, even people who did not commit any wrongdoing were arrested and taken away and they disappeared,” he said.
“I was shocked and panicked because I did not know what would happen to me in the coming days.”
His testimony concludes today.