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KR escapee tells court of prison conditions

Witness Vorng Sarun (left) gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan
Witness Vorng Sarun (left) gives her testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia in Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan in Phnom Penh. ECCC

KR escapee tells court of prison conditions

A former medic, who managed to escape Takeo province’s Kraing Ta Chan security centre as invading Vietnamese forces closed in, told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday of the dire living conditions and her husband’s death at the prison.

Vorng Sarun, 60, was working as a medic in a military hospital in Takeo province before Khmer Rouge forces took control of Cambodia in April 1975. Shortly after Cambodia fell, her husband, Prach Sun, who was a surgeon at the hospital, was arrested and sent to Kraing Ta Chan due to his alleged Vietnamese ties and accusations that he was a KGB agent.

Shortly after his arrest, Sarun, along with her 1-year-old baby, was also detained at Kraing Ta Chan, where other inmates informed her of her husband’s death under the hands of the cadres. Sarun said yesterday that she believed her husband had been singled out because he had previously spent time working as a medic in Hanoi.

“I was first taken to a place surrounded by barbed wires . . . and locked in a cell with my baby. A ring was used to shackle my ankles and hands,” Sarun said. “My baby was also crying for the first three days so they came in and hit my baby.”

The witness remained shackled for seven days before she was interrogated by cadres about her husband’s loyalties. She denied knowledge of it and was allowed to go back to the detention building, which, she said, was packed with at least 40 people “sleeping foot-to-foot” and tightly “surrounded by wire nets that even rats and cockroaches couldn’t escape”.

Sarun could not confirm when she escaped but said that it was while prisoners were being transferred to another prison after rumours spread that Vietnamese troops were closing in on the area.

According to her, the inmates and guards were travelling in Pursat province when they were met with gunfire. After hearing the shots, Sarun, along with other prisoners and prison chief Ta An, escaped to the nearby forest.

Her escape with An, she said, caused other prisoners such as previous civil party Soy Sen to accuse her of being in a relationship with the chief.

“But it was only a rumour, I could not fall in love with the person who killed my husband,” Sarun said.

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