A former Khmer Rouge cadre, accused of being a child murderer and among the cruellest guards at Kraing Ta Chan security centre, yesterday appeared at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia as a civil party, claiming he suffered under the regime because his father and siblings were killed.
Unlike other members of his six-man guard unit who have recently testified as witnesses about the prison compound in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district, Saut Saing took the stand as a victim of the Khmer Rouge, testifying under protective measures about interrogations and executions, including the killing of children, at the site.
Like his fellow guards – Srei Than, known as “small Duch”, and Van Soeun, Saing’s cousin – Saing used his testimony to distance himself from the atrocities, denying allegations by previous civil party and former prison inmate Soy Sen that he murdered two young children together with another cadre.
Of Sen’s evidence, which described one child being smashed against a palm tree and another being killed with a hoe, Saing said: “Allow me to clarify, at the Kraing Ta Chan compound there was no palm tree, not at all, and whatever Soy Sen said, that is his business.”
Saing also denied asking Sen – who said he and “small Duch” were the cruellest guards – to conceal his role at the prison, saying he had “no worries” about testifying.
Transferred to the prison in 1976 with his unit, Saing said inmates, some with children, were shackled by the ankle in one of three detention buildings, where they were unable to clean themselves, denied medical treatment and starved. Then, many were interrogated.
“Prisoners were beaten by a club, and a plastic sheet was used to cover their face, and they [were] tortured to extract their confession,” Saing said, adding: “I would hear screaming”.
Saing said he guarded outside the compound during executions but sometimes saw them from a distance, later adding that when parents “disappeared”, their children did too.
He later said: “The trauma as a consequence of my work at Kraing Ta Chan, it was serious for me, especially [because of] my father and my relatives who were taken for execution; it is beyond my belief that the Khmer people could kill Cambodians as a race.”