Thursday April 18, 2019

In 1979, Khmer Rouge Prison Chief was ordered to execute everyone at Security Centre

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians

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Former Khmer Rouge prison chief S-21, Kaing Guek Eav better known as 'Duch' (C) stands in the courtroom. Image source: www.gettyimages.co.uk
  • Duch was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh
  • Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership
  • In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA- Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, in his second day of testimony at the Khmer Rouge, said that he was ordered by Pol Pot’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea, to kill families of those held by the internal security department.

He even said that in January 1979, he was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh.

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The nine-day testimonial process is focused on Duch’s role as head of the S-21 security center in Phnom Penh, as part of case 002/02 of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — the full name of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images
S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images

“Uncle Nuon ordered [me] to destroy everything before the arrival of Vietnamese forces, but at the time, I begged to keep four people [alive],” Duch, clad in white, his head shaved, told international prosecutors. Duch, 74, who oversaw the deaths of more than 12,000 people at S-21, claims he was following party orders to exterminate “the whole family of the enemy” as part of a “cleansing” that coincided with the regime’s approaching collapse.

“At the end, when Uncle Nuon ordered me to destroy all human beings from S-21, I was very shocked and could not do anything,” he said, adding that each time he departed for S-21, his wife feared he would not return. “I was sick the day that the Vietnamese arrived. I was very scared.” By that time, he said, he was acting to keep his own family from suffering the same fate of his victims.

Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership, as junior officers at S-21 in turn followed the orders of Duch on pain of torture or death.

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Nuon Chea has repeatedly denied all responsibility for the crimes committed at S-21, also known as Toul Sleng, including final orders to exterminate all remaining prisoners. He has not attended the recent proceedings on health grounds, instead watching courtroom proceedings via closed-circuit television from a separate room in the facility.

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians.

In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions. He remains the only senior regime official to have been sentenced. The other defendants had died even before their trials ended. Chea and Khieu Samphan are the only ones who remain alive.

-prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi

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“We Got in Line And Handed Them The Money,”Cambodian Migrants Heading Home for the Holidays

If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]

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On April 9, Cambodian migrants trying to return home for Khmer New Year wait at a checkpoint at the Thai-Cambodian border. RFA

Thousands of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand have flocked to the border along Cambodia’s Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces to return home for the Khmer New Year holiday. But many of the migrants say that before being allowed to return to Cambodia, they had to bribe both Thai and Cambodian border police.

The three-day holiday, running from Apr. 14-16, is the most important holiday in the country, and it is customary for Cambodians to return to their hometowns.

“We workers are not educated and we were afraid that we wouldn’t be able to return. We didn’t want any problems, so we just paid the officials,” said migrant worker Heng Chanhieng, in an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service Tuesday.

He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments.

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We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money, Pixabay

Another migrant, Lon Samnang, said he believes the Thai and Cambodian officers are in league with each other, colluding to extort the workers during the holiday season. He said that the officials demanded they put away their cellphones while collecting the money because they were afraid their pictures would be taken.

“If we didn’t have any money they would not have allowed us to return [to Cambodia,]” he said.

The migrant said he had to wait five hours before the police would even allow them to leave the border checkpoints.

Neth Phirum, meanwhile said police collected $10 from him during his return trip.

“We got in line and handed them the money,” he said, adding, “Nobody knows where that money went [or what it is for].”

Sok Kun, a Kamrieng immigration police officer denied that either the Thai or Cambodian police were taking bribes. He said the money was given to them voluntarily after the officials helped the migrants cross the border in an organized, timely manner.

“The money was their way of saying thanks,” he said.

The same situation was experienced by workers at the Poipet checkpoint in Banteay Meanchey’s Ou Chrov district.

Keo Soveacha said Wednesday that after he offered to pay a bribe, the Cambodian and Thai police split the proceeds.

“I wanted to speed up the process, so I said ‘I have $13,’” he said.

Dy Thehoya, a program officer for the Phnom Penh-based Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), said he wants the government to stop the yearly extortion of the thousands of migrants returning home.

“We know that thousands of migrants work in Thailand. The government should have a policy to help them get through the border checkpoints faster without having to pay extra money,” he said.

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He said that when he was trying to cross through the border checkpoint in Battambag’s Kamrieng district he was asked to pay the equivalent of $6 to the Thai police and $3 to the Cambodian police, adding that nobody even dared to protest against the officials demanding the unofficial payments. Pixabay

Heang Kimsoeun, a social worker, filed a complaint Thursday to Cambodia’s Anti-Corruption Unit, asking them to investigate corruption along the border. The complaint said workers are made to pay $10-$11 to get through border checkpoints. He said that those responsible for the corruption should be brought to justice.

Also Read: Rakhine: Ban on Donations to Help War Refugees

“What are [the police] doing with that money? This is illegal,” he said.

RFA attempted to contact Thai officials for comment. The deputy immigration chief declined to answer any questions, whereas the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received questions but did not reply. (RFA)