Relatives Light Incense for Massacred Ethnic Vietnamese
PHUM CHONG KEAS, Cambodia (AP) _ U.N. investigators have collected more evidence implicating Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the massacre of 34 ethnic Vietnamese.
For the victims’ relatives, meanwhile, centuries of anti-Vietnamese violence were distilled into the harrowing spectacle of bloodied bodies being readied for burial today.
Residents of this houseboat village in the northwest painted coffins and laid out offerings to the dead: money, cookies and burning incense.
Hieng Ty Heigh, 28, sobbed uncontrollably as she recounted how her mother and brother were gunned down. She held the hand of a 4-year-old girl whose finger was shot off in the attack that killed her parents. Other orphans looked frightened and confused.
About 300 families live in this ethnic Vietnamese fishing village 5 miles outside the capital of Siem Reap province.
Lt. David Williams and Capt. Gary Boyd, both British U.N. soldiers, said today that boat owners told them two dozen armed Khmer Rouge commandeered their boats and forced them to take them to the floating village for Wednesday night’s attack.
The boat owners said they knew the soldiers well because they had harassed villagers before.
Witnesses in this village in the Tonle Sap lake said 10 men, dressed only in shorts, sailed up to a floating video parlor and opened fire with automatic rifles and machine guns. Then they trained their guns on houseboats.
Thirty-four people died in a 20-minute attack that wiped out entire families. U.N. investigators said two babies were tossed overboard to drown and children were shot in the head execution-style. At least two dozen were injured.
Denis McNamara, head of the human rights division of the U.N. mission said: ″It’s one of the tragic repeats of Cambodian history, the killing of Vietnamese. It has been a major concern, especially in this pre-election period.″
There have been several massacres of ethnic Vietnamese in recent months despite the presence of U.N. peacekeepers.
Some U.N. officials have said it was possible Cambodian government authorities set up the attack on Phum Chong Keas, knowing the rival Khmer Rouge would be blamed.
In Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, an official at the Khmer Rouge compound who refused to give his name denied his group was responsible. But he said the attack showed that Cambodians don’t want Vietnamese living on their land.
The Communist Khmer Rouge slaughtered ethnic Vietnamese and hundreds of thousands of Cambodians during its fanatical rule of Cambodia in the 1970s. Neighboring Vietnam invaded in late 1978, installing a puppet government that the Khmer Rouge and two other factions fought for 13 years before a 1991 peace accord paved the way for a U.N. peacekeeping mission and elections scheduled for May.
The Khmer Rouge has violated the peace accords and resisted election preparations, demanding the expulsion of what it says are thousands of Vietnamese soldiers who remained in Cambodia after Vietnam withdrew in 1989.
But almost all political factions and many ordinary Cambodians hate the Vietnamese because of the occupation, and centuries of territorial conflict before that.