A civil party testifying at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday described narrowly surviving while his relatives were brutally murdered as part of the regime’s purge of ethnic Vietnamese.
Choeung Yaing Chaet, 52, was giving testimony in the phase of Case 002/02 dealing with the regime’s treatment of Vietnamese living in Cambodia.
Mr. Yaing Chaet said he was forced to flee his home in Kompong Leng district to a village near the provincial capital in 1975 after a group led by a local cadre named Ta Peang threatened to kill all the ethnic Vietnamese in the area.
“They mistreated us and said if we remained living there every one of us would be killed. For that we were afraid and everyone fled to Kompong Chhnang [town],” he said.
After a month there working as a fisherman, he and his family were evacuated back to Kompong Leng. About a month after that, he said, the whole family was targeted for death.
One day at about 8 a.m., Mr. Yaing Chaet said, eight armed Khmer Rouge soldiers detained his family outside their house, tied them up and marched them into a nearby forest.
“They walked us from the house to the forest. The distance was a bit over 1 km and we were stopped about 100 meters from the pit,” he said.
Mr. Yaing Chaet said his mother, father and four siblings were then taken out of sight and killed, after which he was marched to the pit and ordered to kneel in front of their corpses.
“Each of us was taken there and killed. They would kill and untie and push the person into the pit. And when it was my turn I was ordered to kneel down, and then they felt my neck and then they used an ax to hit my neck three times,” he said. “I saw the dead bodies of my father, my mother and my siblings and I was the last one to be killed and dropped into the pit.”
But at about 4 p.m. the same day, he said, he regained consciousness, climbed out of the grave and found his way to a floating village, where he recuperated.
After that, he ended up in Phnom Penh in another roundup of Vietnamese. Once in the capital, Mr. Yaing Chaet said, he was put on a ferry to Prey Veng province, where he and other ethnic Vietnamese were handed over to Vietnamese officials in exchange for rice and salt. He said he did not return to Cambodia until 1982, three years after the Vietnamese invaded and pushed the Khmer Rouge out of power.