Khmer Rouge Witness Escaped Pol Pot; Detained by Vietnamese

After joining Vietnamese forces and several East Zone commanders to form the group that toppled Pol Pot’s regime, a defection leader was deemed untrustworthy and imprisoned for eight months without trial, he told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday.

Testifying for a second day in the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the witness, identified only as 2-TCW-1065 because of his involvement in ongoing investigations, said an unsuccessful search for family members after Pol Pot’s fall led to his detention by the Vietnamese.

“I was so disappointed. I could get out of one regime and I fell into the other hands. I fell into the other regime,” he said.

The former farmer had been chair of the Khmer Rouge’s Hospital 156 in Division 4 when he was forced to lead cross-border battles against Vietnam over unclear border demarcations starting in late 1977, he said.

On May 25, 1978, a purge led by Pol Pot swept the zone of all its officials, the witness said, leading him to organize the remaining troops to fight back against the regime.

“Pol Pot was a traitor, because everyone who was born wanted to live his or her life, but when he ordered soldiers to kill people, to torture people, it means that person—he betrayed them,” he said.

While hiding in a nearby forest from which the troops planned to attack, they met Vietnamese and former East Zone Khmer Rouge officials, he said. Convinced he could only overcome Pol Pot’s regime with their help, he traveled to Vietnam.

During meetings in Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district later that year, East Zone leaders, including Heng Samrin, now the National Assembly’s president; his brother Heng Samkai; Chea Sim and Bou Thong helped form the United Front for the National Salvation of Kampuchea that successfully overthrew the regime in January 1979.

“Later on, there was a dispute between the Vietnamese and me,” he said. “I went to Pursat in 1979, the sole purpose of which was to search for my family members who had been evacuated by Pol Pot.”

His family had died during the regime, however, and the trip was perceived as an attempt to flee to Thailand, he said. His testimony during an interrogation was dismissed, the witness said.

In 1980, “because of this situation, I was put in prison,” he said, adding that there was no trial in which evidence was presented. He was released after eight months.

All this, he said, because “Vietnam no longer trusted me.”

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