Tribunal Hears of Massacre, Disembowelment

A witness at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday recounted seeing ethnic Vietnamese being executed by cadre in Siem Reap province, their gallbladders hung from a coconut tree.

Oum Son, who worked in a mobile unit, described seeing the massacre at Wat Khsach in Chi Kraeng district alongside Sien Sung, who was the first witness to give testimony in the current segment of the trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, which focuses on the alleged genocide of ethnic Vietnamese.

The witness said he was at home near the pagoda when he heard screams and went to take a look at the killing.

“They accused those people of being a ‘Yuon’ person; they did not use the word Vietnamese but ‘Yuon’ and each of them were walked by a separate group and then were executed one by one,” Mr. Son said, using a term for Vietnamese that can be derogatory.

“I want to tell the court that the legs of both the babies or children were held upside down and the babies and children were smashed against the coconut trees,” he said, adding that gas lanterns lit by the killers illuminated the gruesome scene.

Like Mr. Sung in October, the witness described how a young girl named “Chantha” had been disemboweled.

“[Her] abdomen was cut open and the gallbladder was removed from her…and the gallbladder hung on the coconut tree,” Mr. Son said.

“There were quite a few gallbladders…the gallbladders of unmarried women were removed,” he said.

Victor Koppe, defense counsel for Nuon Chea, briefly went on the offensive against the witness, whose testimony was muddled and seemed contradictory at times, before being halted by Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn.

“Mr. Witness, I shall be very, very brief today, as a matter of fact I only have one question I would like to put to you because with all due respect, I don’t believe a word of your story,” Mr. Koppe said.

“I’m putting it to you that, as a matter of fact, you never witnessed any executions between 1975 and 1979, you never saw any dead bodies at Wat Khsach,” he said, before Judge Nonn interjected and warned him not to draw his own conclusions on the testimony.

Mr. Koppe then sat down and, after Judge Nonn informed him he could not ask the witness if he was lying, declined to ask further questions.

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