Civil Party Says KR Used Bayonets on Children

Cambodia Daily, December 3 2015 by

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.

KRT witness tells of Vietnamese wife’s fate

The Phnom Penh Post, Thursday, 3 December 2015 by 

Civil party Prak Doeun described the segregation, deportation and at times murder of ethnic Vietnamese – including his own wife and children – at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

In 1966, Doeun, an 18-year-old Khmer, married Bou Samban, a Cambodian woman of Vietnamese mixed descent from the same Boribor district village. Together, they had five daughters, and a son who was born after 1975.

Before the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975 “there was no discrimination at all,” Doeun said.

Following evacuation, Doeun was transferred to Ta Mov Island where he was reunited with his family after a year, in late 1976.

On the island, there were seven other mixed-marriage families, Doeun continued, and cadres were “aware of who was Vietnamese” because other villagers “exchanged information about us for food”.

However, following an announcement that Vietnamese could be sent to Vietnam, Samban refused to go – “to live or to die she would stay with me”, Doeun said, claiming to later witness deportations.

“I saw they rounded up people and put them into a covered boat along the river . . . There were about 20 to 30 people,” he said.

At this point, after watching a Buddha statue be dismantled, Doeun told his wife, “I think we might be in a difficult situation living in Cambodia.”

Soon after, Doeun witnessed soldiers beat a woman for speaking Vietnamese, and then heard a radio announcement seeking Vietnamese who “infiltrated” Cambodia.

Sometime in 1977, the remaining mixed families were led by soldiers, an 18-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, on a 10 kilometre march, and then were sorted.

“When we reached the place where they wanted to kill us, they divided us into groups” by ethnicity, Doeun said, adding that they were told they would be working the fields, and that the children went with their mothers.

His wife, mother-in-law and 1-year-old son died that night.

“The next day, the unit chief said those people had been smashed and that the young children were thrown into the air and pierced with a bayonet,” he said, later testifying that the unit chief, “Comrade Heum . . . tried to console me the next morning that my wife and child had been killed. The comrade blamed me, [asking] why did I marry the Vietnamese wife.”

Doeun was later remarried after the regime’s fall. While three of his daughters from his first marriage died in work units, two managed to survive as Doeun “secretly” sent dry fish and beans to them, and had them change their Vietnamese names.

Without Citizenship, Vietnamese Remain Adrift

By Chris Mueller and Khuon Narim | February 4, 2015 | The Cambodia Daily

KANDAL VILLAGE, Kompong Chhnang Province – Though they live in floating houses moored to the banks of the Tonle Sap river, few of the nearly 2,500 ethnic Vietnamese villagers here can truly call Cambodia home.

Like many of his neighbors in Kompong Chhnang City’s Kandal village, Nguyen Van Hung, 59, settled on the Tonle Sap in the early 1980s when he resettled in Cambodia after fleeing the Khmer Rouge a decade earlier.

Nguyen Thi Nguyen, an ethnic Vietnamese woman living in Kompong Chhnang City’s Kandal village, prepares to dock her boat on the shore of the Tonle Sap river last week. (Chris Mueller/The Cambodia Daily)

But when he returned, he found that his Cambodian citizenship was no longer recognized.

“I have asked for Cambodian citizenship since 1982,” Mr. Hung said in an interview last week. “The government won’t do it.”

Born in Cambodia to Vietnamese parents—both of whom were also born in Cambodia—Mr. Hung said he has the right to citizenship.

“We were born here, so we should have it,” he said. “We want to live here forever.”

In the early 1970s, fervent anti-Vietnamese sentiment began to spread throughout Cambodia under the government of Lon Nol, forcing hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee to Vietnam. As the Khmer Rouge began its ascent to power, almost all Vietnamese either left the country, were forcibly removed or executed.

After Vietnamese forces toppled the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the ethnic Vietnamese refugees slowly began to return to the country, but many had lost their citizenship.

Thousands built floating homes on the Tonle Sap, a cheaper and more attainable alternative to settling on solid ground; without citizenship, the returnees were legally barred from buying land. And unable to find work elsewhere, most families settled into lives on the river as fishermen.

The CIA World Factbook in 2012 estimated that Vietnamese people made up roughly 5 percent of Cambodia population—about 750,000 people. The Factbook does not differentiate between ethnic Vietnamese, Vietnamese nationals and Vietnamese immigrants.

Sok Phal, head of the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, which began a nationwide census of foreigners in August, said last week that he did not now how many ethnic Vietnamese were living in the country.

Resident Outsiders

In interviews last week, nearly a dozen ethnic Vietnamese living on the Tonle Sap river said they neither held Cambodian citizenship, nor knew how to acquire it.

Lounging on a hammock strung over the deck of his floating house, Nguyen Van Giao, 73, said he was born to Vietnamese parents in Cambodia in 1943.

The aging fisherman said he and his family fled the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and he did not return until 1995. Since settling on the Tonle Sap, he said a lack of Cambodian citizenship had affected almost every aspect of his life.

“We don’t have citizenship, so we don’t have rights like Cambodians,” he said. “People think we are illegal immigrants and they look down on us.”

Mr. Giao also said that without a government-issued ID card—which he, his children and grandchildren do not possess—job prospects were meager.

“If we had Cambodian IDs, it would be much easier to find jobs and run a business,” he said.

Mr. Giao said he had never attempted to apply for Cambodian citizenship because he had never been told how to do so. And he fears that broaching the subject with authorities would only cause problems for his family.

“I worry they will deport my family and me,” he said, adding that he does have Vietnamese citizenship.

But while he is concerned about the future of his family, Mr. Giao also said he considers himself fortunate.

“I’m happy because my granddaughter gets to attend the primary school,” he said. “And the school pays 2,000 riel per day to her.”

The school Mr. Giao’s granddaughter attends is the newly opened Samakki Primary School, a public institution built and operated with the support of the Minority Rights Organization (MIRO), a local NGO that provides assistance to ethnic Vietnamese and Khmer Krom communities.

Sourn Butmao, the acting director of MIRO, said most Vietnamese children in Cambodia are not allowed to attend public schools because they do not have birth certificates. But in Kandal village, Mr. Butmao said, local officials provide letters that provisionally recognize these children as residents, thus allowing them to attend public schools in the village.

While most Vietnamese children attend informal classes taught by unqualified Vietnamese teachers, he said, all 47 available spots at Samakki Primary School were filled when its first-ever semester began in September.

“Before the school was running, the Vietnamese parents didn’t trust our project,” Mr. Butmao said. “But so far, they are very happy.”

Laying the Foundation

Cambodia’s 1996 Law on Nationality states that in order to qualify for Cambodian citizenship, applicants must be able to read and write Khmer, demonstrate an understanding of Cambodian history and prove they have lived continuously in the country for at least seven years.

Mr. Butmao said his school would offer its Vietnamese students the tools to meet the first two qualifications.

“Now, they can go to school, learn about Cambodian culture and learn the Khmer language,” he said.

Lyma Nguyen, an Australian civil party lawyer who represents ethnic Vietnamese at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, noted that school records could also be used to prove that Vietnamese students are residents of Cambodia.

“If they had access to school, it can give them a leg up to get documentation such as birth certificates,” she said.

Ms. Nguyen explained that birth certificates gives ethnic Vietnamese similar rights to Cambodians—rights to run businesses and hold jobs, vote and purchase land.

“It just sets them up for life and establishes who they are and that they were born in Cambodia,” she said.

But Ms. Nguyen said that while obtaining a birth certificate—the first step toward obtaining full citizenship—was within reach of most ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, the rest of the process was more difficult.

The requirements for citizenship are vague and not well understood, even by authorities, she said.

“Even to this day, I’m uncovering subdecrees [related to immigration and nationality] that haven’t been published publicly,” she said.

“The law itself is inaccessible,” she added. “It’s all very randomly implemented and is almost at the whim of who is sitting behind the desk.”

Mao Chandara, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s identification department, which is tasked with issuing ID cards and birth certificates, said that applying for them is a simple process.

“For foreigners who are legally living on Cambodian land, they can ask for citizenship,” he said. “They have to fill out an application form.”

Thai Srung, a representative of the Vietnamese community in Kandal village, however, said the cost of simply applying for citizenship is far beyond the means of most members of his community.

Mr. Srung said local officials had told him application fees came to about 750,000 riel, or about $185, per person.

“For us poor families, we can’t afford it,” he said.

“We should have the same rights, but the rights are biased toward Cambodians,” he added.

“For me, I don’t care about citizenship, but I worry for future generations.”

Victim Participation and Minorities: Ethnic Vietnamese Civil Parties at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

By Lyma Nguyen and Christoph Sperfeldt, Macquarie Law Journal, 2014 Volume 14 page 97

In 2010, the Co-Investigating Judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) charged four senior leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime with genocide against two minority groups, the Cham and the ethnic Vietnamese. This article examines the role of minority victims in a genocide trial, using the specific case study of a group of ethnic Vietnamese survivors who joined as civil parties before the hybrid criminal proceedings at the ECCC. The article highlights the challenges that arise in the process of including minority narratives within the broader context of a mass atrocity trial, by describing the participation process civil parties have undertaken to date. Importantly, the case of the ethnic Vietnamese survivors shows how victim participation in a criminal trial can shed light on larger, contemporary human rights issues affecting a minority group. In the present case, a number of ethnic Vietnamese civil parties have sought access to, or recognition of, Cambodian nationality, through a request for ‘collective and moral reparations’ under the ECCC’s Internal Rules.

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