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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - The infamous tiger cages

The infamous tiger cages

FOR THE BAD PEOPLE...

It beats being killed, but not by much.

The Khmer Rouge "prison" in the forest surrounding Mountain 200 is a collection of metal tiger cages and wooden boxes, exposed to the elements.

It was in one of these tiger cages that Pol Pot was allegedly first held after he was sentenced to life imprisonment following a show trial here last year.

However, according a Khmer Rouge defector named Roeun, Pol Pot did not remain there very long and was soon transferred to a house with his family.

The house was about 500 meters away from the prison and only a few hundred meters from the Thai border post.

The metal cages are held above the ground on four legs.

There is no shelter from the weather and they are too small to either stand up in or lie down fully stretched out.

The people serving sentences for lesser crimes were held in the ground-level wooden cages -little more than airy crates, but compared to the tiger cages they are luxurious.

Each has a thatched roof and a bit more room.

Colonel Horn Sophal, an RCAF helicopter pilot, spent four months in one of the wooden cages last year after flying a Funcinpec negotiating team into Anlong Veng which was captured en masse.

Ten of his charges were executed.

He said life in the cage was very hard and he became upset as he recollected his time there.

"They gave me a hammock, a mosquito net and a little food," he said.

He was very surprised and had tears in his eyes when the Post gave him a photograph of the forsaken prison in the lightly-wooded clearing.

He looked carefully at the picture and pointed out where he and his co-pilot and fellow Fun-cinpec officer Nin Pin were held.

He then drew a map to show the layout of the prison and where each of them were held.

Sophal is now back flying to Anlong Veng and although he could visit the prison, there is no way he wants to.

"I hate that place. I don't want to see it at all," he said. "This is the nightmare of my life." But he asked for a copy of the photograph for himself.

Meanwhile typical Khmer Rouge punishments for other crimes varied from the lenient, such as demotion, to the medieval with a dash of the free-market thrown in to help with detection and apprehension.

FOR THE NOT-SO-BAD...

According to KR documents, Ta Mok made three orders on December 29 relating to forestry and fishing violations.

ï People who are leaders and get involved in logging are to be stripped of their leadership;

ï People who use explosives to go fishing are "yuon" (Vietnamese) and must have their throats cut;

ï People who start forest fires are to be burned alive.

To ensure that these crimes were stamped out, Ta Mok offered a 100,000 baht reward for the arrest of such criminals. There was no record of the reward ever successfully being claimed.

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