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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Duch: Nuon Chea ordered S-21 slaughter

Duch: Nuon Chea ordered S-21 slaughter

The 1979 Vietnamese invasion represented new hope for many Cambodians, but it equaled a death sentence for more than 500 remaining inmates at S-21 prison, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, testified yesterday at the Khmer Rouge tribunal.


Under examination by deputy co-prosecutor William Smith, Duch, the former chief of the notorious S-21 interrogation centre, said Brother No 2 Nuon Chea “ordered the executions of the remaining prisoners of S-21” in January 1979, as the Khmer Rouge prepared to evacuate Phnom Penh in advance of the Vietnamese invasion.

“And how many prisoners were there when he gave you that order?” Smith asked.

“There were more than 100 prisoners, even over 500, I feel,” Duch responded, adding that the “mission [was] accomplished” within three days.

Duch continued his incriminating testimony against his former superior later that afternoon, implicating the former deputy secretary in the executions and burnings of foreign nationals who had been captured off Cambodia’s coast in 1977.

“After the interrogations, there would be a decision to smash – the smashing was to be conducted in a form of burning to ash,” Duch said.

“I was following the order from Nuon Chea, and I implemented the order,” the prison chief added, explaining that the corpses of the captured foreigners, who had been first executed, were burned so as to remove evidence.

“We needed to burn them entirely … to burn to their bones into ashes…so no one would be able to trace them.”

Duch also clarified statements he made on Thursday concerning the decision-making process within Democratic Kampuchea.

On Thursday, he had said that most decisions to arrest individuals and send them to S-21 were made by the Standing Committee, but yesterday, Duch focused on the prominent role Nuon Chea and Pol Pot played in such decisions.

“The decision to arrest was made by the Standing Committee in a broad sense, but in a more practical sense, it was Brother Pol [Pot] who made the decision, and in some cases, Brother Nuon [Chea] was the one who made such decisions,” Duch testified.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kristin Lynch at



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