Tuesday July 23, 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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Cambodia Returns 1,600 Tons of Plastic Waste Exported from US, Canada

Neth Pheaktra said 70 of the containers were shipped from the U.S. and 13 came from Canada. Both countries are major waste exporters

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Containers loaded with plastic waste are pictured in Sihanoukville Port, southwest of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. July 16, 2019. VOA

Cambodian authorities have announced plans to return 1,600 tons of plastic waste exported from the U.S. and Canada, according to a high-ranking official from the Environmental Ministry.

Inspectors found the waste Tuesday. It was packed in 83 containers unloaded in Sihanoukville, one of Cambodia’s main ports.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that “authorities are seeking the companies that smuggled the plastic waste in order to take legal action.”  He added that the waste would be returned “to the country of origin.”

Neth Pheaktra said 70 of the containers were shipped from the U.S. and 13 came from Canada. Both countries are major waste exporters.

plastic waste
80 percent of the waste found on 93 beaches was plastic. VOA

‘Not a dustbin’

“Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste, and the government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country,” said Neth Pheaktra.

In the past, Cambodian authorities have found radioactive and film waste arriving in Sihanoukville.  He said the plastic waste found this week was not biodegradable.

Emily Zeeberg, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia, said the embassy “is monitoring reports of plastic waste at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.”

Zeeberg added that “we have requested additional information and are offering U.S. government assistance to determine both the exporter (country of origin) and the importing entity here in Cambodia.”

Sorn Chey, who works with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said the authorities should heed control mechanisms. “This is something that should not take place,” he added.

plastic waste
Scientists: China’s Ban Causes Plastic To Pile Up, Nations Must Reduce Usage. Pixabay

Chinese project

Cambodia’s rejection this week was the latest step in a trash crisis that emerged when China began Operation Green Fence in February 2013. It was aimed at reducing the vast amounts of contaminated recyclables and waste sent to China.

ALSO READ: Mahindra Group Chairman: No More Plastic Bottles at Boardroom Meeting

In January 2018, Beijing banned almost all imports of two dozen types of recyclable materials, such as plastics, mixed paper and electronic waste. Now, unless the materials are clean and sorted so they are unmixed, China rejects them.

Since then, other countries in Southeast Asia that accepted waste have started to turn it away. In May, Malaysia returned 450 tons of plastic waste to the U.S., the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands. Earlier this month, Indonesia rejected waste from Australia. (VOA)