A former logistics official told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday that he once helped members of a Vietnamese-Khmer family hide their ethnic identities from regime soldiers, but that they were arrested and killed anyway.
During his second day of testimony, the witness, who at one point rose to the rank of deputy chief of the Northwest Zone’s logistics and economics department, said ethnic Vietnamese men and women were sent to Vietnam, except for those with Khmer spouses, who were allowed to remain in the country.
“Many were sent away by boat along the Tonle Sap river through Phnom Penh,” said the witness, identified only as 2-TCW-1037 because of his involvement in ongoing investigations.
“I did not know how they organized this, but for those who did not speak Khmer clearly they were identified as ethnic Vietnamese,” he testified.
In the months that followed the Khmer Rouge takeover of Phnom Penh in April 1975, ethnic Vietnamese and their relatives living in the country’s northwest were arrested, the witness said. Soldiers would go village-to-village in search of ethnic Vietnamese and their families, he said.
“They were all swept clean,” he said. “They were arrested and taken by boat and killed along Tonle Sap lake.”
Genocide against the Vietnamese is among the charges in the ongoing trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea.
The witness said he tried to prevent a Vietnamese-Khmer family from being arrested by concealing their identity from soldiers, with limited success.
“The husband had been taken away to be killed first and then it was the time for the wife and children,” he said. “One child was successful in fleeing and that child survived the regime after 1979. I met that child in Banteay Meanchey.”
The tribunal will continue today with testimony from expert witness Stephen Morris, a researcher who wrote the book “Why Vietnam Invaded Cambodia.”