A civil party told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday that his young son was killed by being thrown into the air and pierced with a bayonet while his wife and mother-in-law were thrown into pits as ethnic Vietnamese were exterminated in Kompong Chhnang province.
In 1966, Prak Doeun, now 73, married his wife—who was born to Vietnamese parents in the same commune as him in Kompong Chhnang’s Boribor district—and claimed the couple faced no discrimination prior to the Pol Pot regime.
But after the communists took control of the country, Mr. Doeun said, he feared the regime’s attitude toward ethnic Vietnamese people and gave his children Cambodian aliases to conceal their ethnicity.
“I was afraid that I would lose my daughter if I was using her original name, the Vietnamese name. At that time, she would have been killed. For this reason I used a different name for her,” he said.
The civil party said he was soon relocated to Ta Mov island, where he was joined by his family in late 1976. Upon their arrival, the civil party said, he revealed his wife’s ethnicity to local cadre for fear that he would be killed for lying, and the family was initially left alone.
During this period, ethnic Vietnamese residents of the island were given the opportunity to board boats to Vietnam, with around 20 to 30 people accepting the offer. His wife decided to stay in Cambodia, however, a decision Mr. Doeun suspected was risky because he saw the regime dismantling Buddhist statues, signaling “they no longer had any belief in religion.”
In 1977, Mr. Doeun’s fears were realized when he, his wife, mother-in-law and son were ordered to march into the night with six other Cambodian-Vietnamese couples and one other child. After trekking for hours, the group was split in two; the Cambodians were ordered one way, the Vietnamese and two children another.
The next morning, a man named Comrade Hum explained the fate of the second group to Mr. Doeun.
“I was told that these Vietnamese people had been taken away and killed. I learned the information the next morning…. I was told those people had been taken away and smashed,” he said.
“He told me that the Vietnamese people had their hands tied to their back—they were not interrogated—and those people were beaten into the grave,” he added. “The explanation was that the children were thrown up into the air and when they fell down they were killed with the bayonet.”
The civil party said Comrade Hum then reprimanded him for marrying an ethnic Vietnamese woman.
“He tried to console me that my wife and child had been killed. That comrade blamed me, [asking], ‘Why did you marry a Vietnamese wife?’” he said.
Mr. Doeun’s testimony in the second phase of Case 002—in which Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea are facing charges of genocide against ethnic Vietnamese—is scheduled to continue today.