KR Wanted an Ethnically ‘Pure’ Society, Tribunal Witness Says

A commune chief in Kompong Cham province told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Wednesday that he believed the Khmer Rouge envisaged a “pure” Khmer society void of other ethnicities as purges of Cham Muslims increased under the regime.

Seng Kuy, the chief of Kang Meas district’s Angkor Ban commune—where he was based during the Democratic Kampuchea period—said he was forced to transport a group of 10 to 15 Cham women and children to a pagoda-turned-prison in 1977 on orders from local cadre.

Seng Kuy testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday. (ECCC)
Seng Kuy testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday. (ECCC)

“They didn’t arrest just one person, but all the Cham people living in [Angkor Ban] village 2, where they were having a meal with Khmer people,” Mr. Kuy said.

“After their hands were tied up, no beatings, no kicking. However, they were all pushed or thrown onto the oxcarts. Small children were thrown onto the oxcarts and the older people were pushed onto the oxcarts,” he said.

The witness said he was then ordered by local security forces to carry some members of the group to the gates of Wat Au Trakuon—a pagoda where an estimated 30,000 people are thought to have perished—and never saw them again.

After the arrests, Mr. Kuy said, the village chief scolded the Cham people, saying the purges were carried out in retaliation for the group’s betrayal of “Angkar.”

With defendants Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan facing genocide charges for the first time this week, the prosecution is seeking to prove that the Khmer Rouge targeted certain ethnic groups with the intent to destroy them.

As Cham killings increased, Mr. Kuy said, he came to believe that the Khmer Rouge envisaged a homogeneous Khmer state.

“In 1977, the killing became widespread because other people said in the areas they lived [that] the Khmer Rouge purged the Cham people on a massive scale,” Mr. Kuy said.

“During the Pol Pot regime—which was led by the Khmer Rouge group—they only wanted to have one pure race. They even killed their own Khmer people so they would not spare any other ethnicity, including the Cham race,” he said.

Mr. Kuy said he witnessed bodies floating in a river near his village.

“I noticed that people died and corpses were floating in the river during the flooding season. I heard from others that there were killings at different places,” he said.

Earlier in the day, civil party Sos Ponyamin, who took part in a Cham rebellion against the Khmer Rouge in Kompong Cham’s Svay Kleang village, concluded his testimony and posed questions to Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

“You two were leaders of the regime, you made people undergo suffering, people were executed and killed, so what was the purpose of your regime? Why were all religions abolished, including my Islamic religion? We, Cham people, were persecuted on a permanent basis during that time.”

The defendants exercised their right to remain silent.

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