Evacuation of Phnom Penh in the Case 002 Closing Order

Below are paragraphs in the Closing Order related to the evacuation of Phnom Penh in April 1975. These paraphs forms part of the indictment in Case 002, and the information is allegations which will be tested through adverserial hearing of evidence during trial.


160.     One of the five policies was to implement and defend the CPK socialist revolution through the movement of the population from towns and cities to rural areas, as well as from one ruralarea to another, by whatever means necessary. The movement by the CPK of people began prior to 17 April 1975 and continued until at least 6 January 1979. The Co-InvestigatingJudges were specifically seized of three major phases of movement: the movement of peopleout of Phnom Penh (Phase 1); the Central (Old North), Southwest, West and East Zones(Phase 2); and the East Zone (Phase 3).

161.     One of the objectives of the population movements was to fulfil the labour requirements of the cooperatives and worksites.468 The CPK declared that it also had the objectives ofproviding food supplies to the population and protecting it from security threats. A CPK Party document dated September 1975 reflects another major objective: to deprive city dwellers and former civil servants of their economic and political status and transform them into peasants,469 thus “preserving the revolutionary achievements”.470 Population movements were therefore a key means used by the CPK to achieve “whatever can be done that is a gainfor the revolution”. 471

Dates and Participation

 162.     Prior to 1975, the CPK had implemented a policy of removing people from the towns and cities that came under their control: people were moved totally or partially from urban areas in Steung Treng, Kratie, Banam and Udong in the Northeast, North and East Zones andSector 505.472 Publications of the Revolutionary Flag reflect that the CPK deliberately moved the population from urban to rural areas.473

 163.     This policy was implemented, in particular, on or around 17 April 1975 (Phase 1); from thelatter part of 1975 until some time in 1977 (Phase 2); and from late 1977 throughout 1978 (Phase 3).

 164.     With respect to Phase 1, Pol Pot played a key role in the decision to move the entire population out of Phnom Penh.474 The plans to prepare the reception of the residents of Phnom Penh were disseminated before its implementation.475 There was further involvement of members of the Party Centre476 in the development of this plan during meetings in late March or early April 1975.477 These were followed by meetings during which lower level cadre were informed of the decision.478 Some CPK soldiers were informed of the attack on Phnom Penh in advance, generally via their military superiors in accordance with the command structure,479 however others only received the order to remove people from the capital shortly after their arrival.480 The evacuation of the population of Phnom Penh was not a singular phenomenon but constituted part of a wider pattern of population movements from cities after 17 April 1975.481

Movement of the Population from Phnom Penh (Phase 1)783

 Pre-1975 Situation

 221.     Between 1970-1975 the population of Phnom Penh greatly increased to several million due to internally displaced people coming to the city from the countryside seeking protection from the conflict.784

 222.     Health service personnel785 and facilities786 were of decreased capacity during this period and services were less available in the countryside than in the cities, largely due to the on-going conflict between CPK forces and the Lon Nol regime.787 Hospitals in the capital were overcrowded788 and of varying quality.789 Health represented under 3% of the national budget at the end of 1974, compared to 5.7% in 1968.790

223.     Although hunger and malnutrition were matters of concern during the conflict period prior to 1975,791 there are no reports of widespread famine or epidemic risks.792 This was largely due to foreign agencies supporting the population,793 although the ability to assist affected communities decreased as the insecurity grew.794

224. With the entry of CPK troops in the capital,795 the population of Phnom Penh was made to depart the city,796 from the morning of 17 April 1975,797 continuing for several weeks,798 including during the evening hours.799 Persons generally departed from their family homes located throughout the city.800

People Moved

 225.     The persons made to leave Phnom Penh were predominantly civilians801 including men,women, the elderly, children,802 and monks.803 Doctors and nurses were also made to leave;804 as well as hospital patients, wounded and sick people,805 and mothers who had just given birth.806 Entire families were made to leave Phnom Penh807 although frequently family members were separated from each other.808

226.     The precise number of persons who were made to leave Phnom Penh is unclear, although the total figure is likely to be 1.5 to 2.6 million people.809 Witnesses refer to seeing masses of people travelling in the streets810 and that the entire city was emptied of people.811 Before 17 April 1975, the CPK claimed that the population in Phnom Penh and other areas controlled by the enemy was around one million.812 After 17 April 1975, the CPK officially estimated that the total number of persons moved from Phnom Penh was two million.813 Later the CPK put the number of persons moved from Phnom Penh and provincial capitals at around three million814 (although the same figure of three million was sometimes also cited for the population moved from Phnom Penh alone, including by Ieng Sary).815 In 1977, the CPK changed their estimation of total number of people moved to four million.816

Initial Destination

227.     The civilian population left Phnom Penh by the national roads in all directions: north, south, east and west of the city.817 In general, people were not provided with directions818 nor informed of the final destination819 other than to go to rural areas820 or to their birth place or home village.821 On occasion CPK troops made people change their route.822 The evidence shows that the people left Phnom Penh for most of the zones in Cambodia.823 The local communities were often instructed to receive the newly arriving population and provide food and shelter, although it was generally not sufficient for the number of arrivals.824 In other cases, the civilian population from Phnom Penh was either housed in halls825 or had to establish their own accommodation.826 Some people became ill from the journey from Phnom Penh or from the conditions on arrival.827 People who had originated from Phnom Penh were identified as “new people” or “17 April people” or “depositee people” and were often targetedon arrival based on this identity.828

 Means and Method of the Movement


 228.     The persons enforcing the movement of the population from Phnom Penh were identified by witnesses as “Khmer Rouge” troops.829 They were described as wearing black830 or khaki831 clothes, some with scarves832 or kramas around their necks.833 The “Khmer Rouge” troops were often armed.834

 229.     The troops made announcements835 generally over loudspeakers or megaphones836 that the population had a limited time period to leave Phnom Penh.837 In some instances the CPK troops were reported to have had lists of names838 and were allocated specific areas of thecapital to supervise the movement of the population.839

 230.     Various contingents of the CPK army were identified as implementing the Phnom Penh population movement,840 namely the North Zone forces841 (including Division 1 under Commander Oeun),842 the Southwest Zone forces,843 the Special Zone forces,844 and the EastZone army;845 and witnesses report that the units had differing attitudes towards the population.846

 231.     People did not resist the instruction to leave Phnom Penh.847 According to certain witnesses there was no particular violence on the part of certain CPK troops.848 However, most witnesses state that the CPK troops engaged in threats849 and the use of force to ensure people left their homes.850 Witnesses reported hearing gunshots.851

 232.     Other witnesses state that the CPK troops shot people dead if they refused to leave their homes.852 Civilians were also shot in the cross-fire targeting Lon Nol soldiers.853 Somewitnesses reported seeing dead bodies in the streets of Phnom Penh.854 Others stated that theCPK troops were instructed to do whatever was needed to ensure people left Phnom Penh.855

 233.     Ill treatment and acts of violence, such as beating and shooting in the air, were also reported against the civilian population.856 There are reports that personal property was taken by the CPK troops from Phnom Penh inhabitants.857

 234.     With respect to Lon Nol soldiers, some were reportedly disarmed by CPK troops858 and in some instances made to leave the city with the civilian population.859 On other occasions it is reported that Lol Nol soldiers were identified by questioning and taken away separately from the people leaving the city.860 There was an announcement in advance that “Angkar” would forgive all the people from the former regime except seven high level officials861 and that the CPK soldiers requested former Lon Nol soldiers, governmental officials and police officers to report for work for the Party, however these individuals were then taken away to an unknown location before disappearing.862

 235.     Some Lon Nol soldiers were shot if they refused to lay down their arms or showed any resistance.863 In particular there is a written order signed by Comrade Pin ordering a list of Lon Nol officers be “smashed864 and one witness states that Son Sen ordered the arrest of high-ranking civil servants of the Lon Nol regime, including those in hospital. These people were later killed and thrown into a well in the Tuol Kork area.865 Witnesses refer to seeing executions of Lon Nol soldiers866 and seeing dead bodies of Lon Nol soldiers in the streets.867

236.     Witnesses do not refer to being provided with transport868 other than limited reference to the use of military trucks.869 Most people travelled on foot,870 others drove or pushed their cars or other vehicles,871 including scooters or motorbikes872 and bicycles or cyclos.873 In some instances boats were used.874

237.     The CPK troops told people not to take many personal belongings875 in some cases specifying it was not necessary876 because they would be leaving for a short period of time, and in others specifying that it was not possible to take items with them since people had to leave quickly.877 Most people left their personal belonging inside their houses.878 For people who were carrying their personal belongings, there was no evidence of assistance provided to them.879 People carried items on their heads or shoulders, in carts or in their vehicles.880 People took with them items such as rice,881 money, medicine, school books or clothing,882 and they were also assisting those who were sick and elderly.883

 238.     There is some evidence that food or other forms of support were provided to the population during the journey from Phnom Penh.884 There is evidence that certain CPK troops provided some rice for the people to eat885 although some of these witnesses also report having to drink dirty water from ponds along the way886 and that the CPK cadre noted the names of those who received food and the names of those who did not want to continue travelling.887 Two witnesses state that they did not see people starving during the population movement from Phnom Penh.888

 239.     There is no evidence of CPK troops providing security or protection to the population along the way.889 People had no shelter along the way890 and slept on mattresses on the road,891 in empty houses or under trees.892 People were not provided with food or water.893 One witness refers to being denied permission by the “Khmer Rouge” to obtain food.894 Otherwise, the only food available was steamed rice.895 Some people had to travel through the night with no rest896 for several days.897 People developed swollen limbs from the long walk898 and there are reports of deaths attributable to the conditions.899 There is no evidence of the population receiving any medicine.900 Some CPK troops took property from people as they travelled from Phnom Penh.901

 240.     Witnesses refer to seeing corpses along the road902 of people who had been shot dead.903 People were killed along the road for small things such as not wanting to abandon theirbicycles.904 Although some witnesses state that they did not see any mistreatment by CPKsoldiers against civilians905 or that they did not see anyone die along the road,906 Ieng Sarystates that 2,000 to 3,000 people died during the evacuation of Phnom Penh.907

 Return to Phnom Penh

 241.     One witness states the CPK would threaten people that they would be shot if they returned to Phnom Penh.908 Nuon Chea stated that the intention was to permit people to return to Phnom Penh909 and Ieng Sary stated in May 1977 that the cities were re-populated after the initial population movement to the countryside,910 and that people could choose to return to the city if they wished or could remain in the countryside.911 However, although there was indication that in rare circumstances some people were sent back to Phnom Penh to work,912 the city was largely empty of people except for limited numbers of soldiers and cadres913 until the fall of the CPK regime.914 According a statement by Pol Pot at a meeting on 6 June 1976, the population of Phnom Penh was then “more than 100,000”.915 As of April 1977, this included 43,810 provided rations by the General Staff.916

 Reasons Given to the Population for the Movement

 242.     During the movement of the population from Phnom Penh, the people were often told by the CPK troops that they would only be away from their homes for a short time of two917 or three days,918 or up to a week or two.919

243.     In addition, several witnesses state that the CPK troops told them that it was necessary to leave Phnom Penh for their personal security920 and so that the troops could identify921 or eliminate922 Lon Nol soldiers, or otherwise find the enemy.923 There was also reference to the anticipated American bombing of the city,924 although there are also indications that some people present did not believe this.925 There is also reference to justifications for the movement of people from the city because CIA agents intended to deploy spies to launch a counterattack.926

 244.     Witnesses were further told that it was necessary to remove people from Phnom Penh to organise927 and clean up the city928 such as clearing away the ammunition.929

 245.     Certain political justifications were also provided: some witnesses state that they were told that “Angkar” was waiting930 for them; that they were needed to build the rural economy,931 to build dams, canals, and work in the rice fields;932 and that the only persons authorised to remain in the city were members of the military working there.933 Others have also referred to the food shortage in Phnom Penh as a reason for the population movement and that food was supposedly more plentiful in the countryside.934

 246. These justifications referred to in the evidence of witnesses have been echoed in statements made by the Charged Persons. Ieng Thirith has referred generally in an interview she gave to a journalist in 1980 to the economic, political and military reasons for the movement of people from Phnom Penh.935

 247.     Ieng Sary has stated in an interview with a journalist in 1975, as reiterated at a conference in 1978, that the primary reason for the population movement was food. He states that initially it was thought that there were two million people in Phnom Penh, however it was later discovered that the population of the city was actually three million. He states that prior to the CPK regime, Cambodia had received between 30 to 40,000 tons of food a month from the United States and that the CPK did not wish to ask the international community for aid, but that the CPK would have been unable to transport food from the countryside into the cities.936 Khieu Samphan has also stated in a radio interview in 2007 that the population was starving at the time, but conceded that there was not enough food in the countryside either; so people ate bananas with rice or manioc and only limited food aid was delivered from the allies of the CPK.937 However, in a prior statement, Khieu Samphan asserted that any government recently out of war would have faced the problem of starvation and he asserted that after moving people out of Phnom Penh, people had enough food in cooperatives.938

 248.     The Charged Persons have also referred to the ideology of the regime as a justification for the population movement. In the face of the food crisis, Nuon Chea has asserted that the objective of the regime was to remain independent and sovereign.939 Khieu Samphan has also stated that Pol Pot did not want to live under the control of foreigners.940 The movement of people from the cities into the countryside has also been referred to by Nuon Chea as a component of the socialist revolution.941 Ieng Sary has stated that the objective was to transform the uninhabited quarters of the city into industrial sites.942 He also stated that it was necessary to train the people from the cities to endure moral and physical sufferings through hard labour.943 One witness refers to Ta Mok stating that it was viewed as not necessary to have markets or cities and that all the city population were to go to rural areas to build the rural economy.944 Duch states in interview that the CPK objectives were to turn the whole country into peasants, abolish privatisation, and to force the technicians to do farming so as to make them powerless and dependent on peasants.945 CPK-era documents state that reeducation was not deemed possible on a large scale and so it was necessary to “evacuate” people to the rural areas946 to stop “uncontrollable ideological contamination of therevolutionary ranks”;947 and to participate in the movement to increase production, sustain the population, and contribute to defending and building the country.948

 249.     Finally, with respect to security concerns, Nuon Chea has stated that it was necessary to move the people from Phnom Penh to facilitate the military defence of the country from Vietnam949 to protect the people from war.950 Ieng Sary referred to a secret document allegedly obtained from the CIA concerning plans to infiltrate the city.951 Khieu Samphan referred to the perceived need to make the country strong to fight the enemy.952 CPK-era documents state that if the population had not left the cities, the enemies might have been able to launch surprise attacks from behind.953



 250. Prior to 1975, the CPK had implemented a policy of removing people from the towns and cities that came under their control: people were moved totally or partially from urban areas in Steung Treng, Kratie, Banam and Udong.954

251. According to some witnesses, the decision to move the population from Phnom Penh was made in February 1975955 and was a deliberate plan of the CPK senior leaders. 956 According to a former East Zone cadre, this decision was followed in February 1975 by orders from Pol Pot that all districts and sectors should prepare by building houses to receive people from Phnom Penh.957

 252. One witness explained that in early April 1975 a meeting took place at Pol Pot’s office in Tang Poun Village, Kampong Tralach (Leu) District, Kampong Chhnang Province which was focused on the plan to move the population from Phnom Penh. 958 Although there was noofficial record taken of the meeting, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan each participated in the meeting959 and took their own notes.960 The commanders were told to “set up meetings when they returned to their sectors and make plans to evacuate the people from the cities under their responsibilities. This information was subsequently published in the Revolutionary Flag and the [Kampuchean] Front Flag and was issued to all Party members” (although there is no known existing record of such publications).961

 253.     An additional witness refers to a coordination meeting prior to 17 April 1975 to which all CPK commanders of his unit (then the North Zone Division 1, later Centre Division 310) were invited as reported to him by Et, the commander of his Battalion.962 Another witness states that about one month before the entry into Phnom Penh, a meeting was held in Phnom Sar (the headquarters of the CPK military command of Kampot). Sek, the Chief of Staff of Southwest Zone Sector 35, chaired the meeting. Southwest Zone Secretary Ta Mok stated that it was not necessary to have markets or cities and that all people must be evacuated from the cities to the rural areas in order to build the rural economy in two days after occupying the city.963

 254.     Some witnesses state that Sam Bit, Commander of Division 2 of the Southwest Zone, attended a meeting with upper-echelon CPK members where it was said that Phnom Penh had to be evacuated to find Lon Nol elements.964 This information was then disseminated from this meeting down to regimental and battalion levels.965

 255.     Former low-level CPK cadres also state that they were informed in advance of the plan to remove the people from Phnom Penh. One CPK soldier was told that “Angkar” had a plan to evacuate the people to their birth districts.966 Another witness states that North Zone Division 1 Secretary Oeun made an order to his group regarding the movement of the population about three days before “liberation”,967 whereas another former soldier also refers to being informed by [REDACTED] three days before the attack on Phnom Penh.968

256.     However, other low-level CPK cadres also state that there were no prior instructions.969 Furthermore, some soldiers were only told to commence moving the population after being inthe city for several days. 970

257.     CPK soldiers also received instructions from their superiors to move people from Phnom Penh through the military chain of command.971 Division 310 (North Zone Division 1) 2nd regiment (later 723rd) received the order to evacuate people from the Commander named Chheang972 and also from the Commander Oeun.973 CPK soldiers also referred to the “upperechelon” or “Angkar” as issuing the instruction to leave the city.974

 258.     With respect to the involvement of the Charged Persons in the decision-making process, Nuon Chea was involved in the military planning of the CPK regarding the attack on Phnom Penh as witnessed by his participation in meetings with military leaders.975 In a statement to a journalist Nuon Chea stated that the decision to evacuate people from cities was made by “the Party Centre… At the time, individuals each helped a little to originate ideas, it was combining this with that”.976 Nuon Chea further stated that “we attacked and we took military bases inside. So by 17 April 75, liberation, the army went in and completely liberated Phnom Penh”.977 Ieng Sary stated in a written statement in 1996 that the decision was made by Pol Pot without his knowledge978 although he states he attempted to dissuade Pol Pot, stating that “in 1974 I talked with Pol Pot that taking people out of Stung Treng and Kratie was easy because there weren’t many people, but evacuating people out of Phnom Penh would not be so easy, everything must be thoroughly arranged because there were millions of people”. 979 Ieng Sary has also stated that “all decisions were made by the committee of the four [including himself and Nuon Chea]. The evacuation of people from the cities did not involve my participation in the decision … [upon return from Peking on 23 of April] I saw that the town had already been deserted of its inhabitants”.980 According to Ieng Sary, the authoritative decision to “evacuate” Phnom Penh was made in late March or early April 1975.981 Khieu Samphan stated in a radio interview that he was against the population movement but that it had to be done for the good of the city dwellers,982 and he stated in another interview that such steps were “thought and planned by the Standing Committee”.983 Ieng Thirith stated in an interview with Elizabeth Becker in 1980 that she did not know when the Phonm Penh evacuation decision was made because she was elsewhere at the time.984

 259.     With respect to the presence of the Charged Persons in Phnom Penh, Nuon Chea left the former CPK headquarters on 17th April and arrived at Phnom Penh on or around 20th April.985 Ieng Sary stated that he arrived in Phnom Penh on 23 April 1975 from Peking,986 Ieng Thirith stated in an interview with Elizabeth Becker that she arrived in Phnom Penh around June, but that she knew of the evacuation before she arrived,987 and Khieu Samphan stated that he entered Phnom Penh 7-10 days after 17 April 1975.988

260.     Based on the foregoing evidence, the decision to move people from Phnom Penh was made largely by Pol Pot in February 1975989 with plans already disseminated to prepare the reception of persons from Phnom Penh that same month.990 Further involvement in the development of this plan by members of the Party Centre991 also took place through meetings in late March or early April 1975,992 including the participation of Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan and Ieng Sary.993 Although Ieng Sary was out of the country at the time, there is evidence that he received communications of decisions and that he had already discussed the matter with Pol Pot in 1974.994 There were then meetings with lower level cadre to disseminate this decision995 and some CPK troops were told in advance of the attack on Phnom Penh,996 however others were not informed until they received the order to remove people from the city.997


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