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Guard pressed, defends name

A former cadre expressed his regret at the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday over some of the horrors he witnessed in the “wall-less prison” known as Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre, where he worked as a guard and typist during the Democratic Kampuchea regime.

Testifying under protective measures due to security concerns, witness Srei Than, who is nicknamed Duch, recounted his experience in the “re-education” centre at Takeo’s Tram Kak district, where, he said, “99 per cent of [prisoners] were smashed”.

“For the rest of my life, I don’t want to recall or remember . . . my bitter experience,” he said. “I could not see and I could not hear sometimes . . . but I feel regret for myself and those who were detained.”

Starting in late 1976, Than said he bore witness to some of the atrocities that took place in the killing site, which held men, women and children alike.

“Sometimes, I saw prisoners who were probably tortured severely . . . [also] I believe children were killed through various methods,” he said.

Than was primarily stationed outside of the main detention area, where he intermittently heard screams emanating from the interrogation room. He would also occasionally help type prisoner confessions handed to him by the security centre’s chief or deputy chief.

During cross-examination, however, Nuon Chea’s defence counsel Victor Koppe questioned whether Than was more than just a witness to the barbaric acts at Kraing Ta Chan.

Koppe pressed the witness on his possible active involvement in the torture and killings, and cited civil party and past Kraing Ta Chan prisoner Soy Sen’s previous statements accusing a guard named “small Duch” for participating in the rape of a handful of women, smashing the skull of a young girl against a tree, and mutilating corpses.

But, Than denied all accusations, calling them mere fabrications.

“That statement is not correct, it’s fabricated,” he said. “As you are aware, during the Khmer Rouge period, somebody who commits sexual rape would not be spared.”

Than will continue his testimony today along with a new witness.

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