Nat Geo Explorer: 1977 Death of Cadre Kasy

In 1973 as relations between the Khmer Rouge and Vietnam deteriorated, a paranoia kicked in, sparking a wave of purges in the highlands bordering Vietnam. In 1977 another wave of purges was sparked after cadres escaped to Vietnam- they were also sparked by a conflict between Horm, and his deputy Kham Phoun (both leaders in region 105), of Lao-Tampuen descent. As these two leaders in the region were locked in a power struggle, paranoia grew internally, as cadres tried to eliminate each others allies by accusing them of conspiring with the Vietnamese. This resulted in the deaths of cadres who were either sent for interrogation at S-21 and executed, or sent to jail and executed within Mondulkiri. During the second wave of the purge, many of the people killed were ethnic minorities related to Horm and Kham Phoun. 

Through research, the Khmer Rouge case files of prominent high ranking indigenous officers who were arrested and killed by the regime were sourced. From these files, the surviving families were tracked down.  

 

KASYS CASE FILE FROM THE KHMER ROUGE AFTER HIS ARREST Courtesy of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum


Cadre Kasy an ethnic Phnong, and high ranking Khmer Rouge chief, was arrested and executed by the Khmer rouge in 1977, due to the alleged connections to Vietnam. He was the chief of Keo Sema district (R-5) before being transferred to office K-16 in January 1977. He was asked to manage these districts as there were a lot of Phnong people. Before joining the Khmer Rouge, he was highly educated and attended study sessions in Hanoi, and was accused of maintaining these relationships. He was accused of accepting ammunitions and supplies from the Viet Cong. Kasy was detained at a prison at Phnom Kraol, where he was tortured, and executed. His body was reportedly dumped with others in a mass grave. 

When Kasy was executed, he had a wife But Phnong (approx 70)  and six children, all of which survived the Khmer Rouge, despite families of alleged traitors also being targeted. Buo and Kasy (both indigenous Phnong) had an arranged marriage, as their parents were friends, during the Sihanouk period, though they grew up together and were in love.

During the Khmer Rouge they had no freedom. In 1970 her family relocated to Koh Neak, and in 1973 Kasy became district governor of Keo Sema. After his arrest in 1977 they moved back to Koh Neak where her children lived in a child center. She recalls when they came to arrest her husband, she cried and was afraid. She wanted to go with him but they would not allow her to. They took him away by car, and she chased his car. 

Originally her husband shared Khmer Rouge beliefs, but isn’t sure if later on he changed his mind and no longer supported the regime. She was not sure of his political beliefs during this time. When she was with her husband, she said her life felt complete. But after he was taken, she lived in fear, scared her family would be taken away.  Between 1977-1991 lived with her parents in Koh Neak. When living with her parents, she was mainly surrounded by other Phnong people. 

When people started returning to her home village, she dreamed she would see her husband. When she saw he wasn’t returning, she knew he was dead. Before then, she was no sure if her husband was dead or alive. She never remarried.


Out of his six children, only his eldest son Kasy Bunthoeun (approx 50) remembers their father, Kasy. He remembers going to work with his father, but was to young to understand what he was doing. During meetings he was not allowed in, and had to wait outside. He remembers his father did not talk much, but was always going to the farms to help people. The Khmer Rouge said he wasn’t a good governor and didn’t care about the people- but he was a good man, says Bunthoeun. He does not believe his father was helping people across the border, as he was accused of. He remembers they would ride elephants with his father to other districts to meet people.

Kasy's youngest son has no memory of his father, as he was a baby when he was arrested and killed. Despite never having met his father, and never seeing a photo, he is told he looks just look Kasy