Pol Pot Speech Signaled ‘Successful Genocide’

A 1978 speech delivered by Pol Pot in which he proclaimed that “not one seed” of the Vietnamese population remained inside Cambodia illustrated a “successful completion of genocide” against the group, an expert witness told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday.

Questioned by the prosecution for a second day, Alex Hinton, an anthropologist who authored the 2004 book “Why Did They Kill?” was presented with excerpts of a speech by the regime’s leader to celebrate the third anniversary of Democratic Kampuchea.

Expert witness Alex Hinton speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday. (ECCC)
Expert witness Alex Hinton speaks at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday. (ECCC)

William Smith, a deputy co-prosecutor, asked Mr. Hinton for his opinion about a famed excerpt in which Pol Pot outlined plans to kill 30 Vietnamese for each Cambodian in order to “smash the Yuon,” a term for the Vietnamese considered derogatory by many.

“Would this CPK [Communist Party of Kampuchea] principle that is publicized, of killing 30 Vietnamese for every Cambodian killed, have been likely to have any effect in either discouraging or encouraging the killing of Vietnamese civilians in Democratic Kampuchea?” Mr. Smith asked.

“The quick answer is yes. I think this is language that borders on genocidal incitement,” Mr. Hinton responded.

The anthropologist went a step further when asked whether he thought another remark from the same speech—in which Pol Pot said that “not one seed” of the Vietnamese population was left on Cambodian soil—encouraged the killing of the ethnic group.

“Very clearly it does so, and I should add that it’s also referring to the successful completion of a genocide that has taken place,” Mr. Hinton said.

“It’s what might be called a successful genocide in the sense that virtually every ethnic Vietnamese disappeared from Cambodia is [what is] being said in this statement. I also might add that the word ‘seed’ is a root metaphor for the destruction of what might be called a race.”

Asked who he thought was leading the campaign, Mr. Hinton laid the blame at the feet of the regime’s leadership.

“The CPK standing committee would be at the apex of control in terms of disseminating the party line, propaganda, ideology and giving orders that would go down and run throughout the country,” Mr. Hinton said.

According to the legal definition of genocide, killings must be enacted against a racial, ethnic, national or religious group with the intent of wiping that group out.

Mr. Hinton said the regime’s disproportionate purges of the East Zone due to fears of “Vietnamese heads with Khmer bodies” could also fit the legal definition.

“You could argue that in the East Zone the people targeted were part of a national group, with that part going back to the U.N. Genocide Convention. The term ‘national group’ is one that is somewhat hard to define—it’s debated —but I think within terms of the Convention that’s a possibility,” he said.

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