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New Year massacre in Battambang pagoda

B ATTAMBANG - Three policemen, two elderly men and a nun were killed in a New

Year's massacre at a Battambang pagoda by the Khmer Rouge.

A band of

guerrillas entered the pagoda's grounds, one of them dropping to the ground to

fire a tripod-mounted heavy machine gun at a group of people, according to

witnesses.

The attack occurred at about 10pm on April 14, the first day

of the Khmer New Year, at Bay Samram pagoda in Banan district, about 14km from

Battambang.

"We were sitting on a bed, watching villagers play

traditional games when a group of about 30 Khmer Rouge soldiers arrived," said a

12-year-old monk. "One of them knelt on the ground and used a machine-gun to

fire at us.

"We were very shocked and ran quickly to the Kod (monk's

house)."

The machine-gunner fired at one particular group of people,

including the policemen, who were not in uniform. The other KR apparently did

not open fire.

The policemen were instantly hit, witnesses said, along

with two elderly Achar (pagoda lay people who serve monks) and a nun who had

been sitting near them.

They fell to the ground in a twisted heap,

witnesses said. One wounded Achar struggled to his feet, raising his hands in a

salute - apparently pleading to be spared - but was felled by another burst of

bullets by the gunman.

A local villager was also seriously injured in the

attack, which lasted only a few minutes before the guerrillas fled.

Local

residents said the KR appeared to have been tipped off by someone, because they

knew where to find the policemen.

One woman said a guerrilla told her: "I

kill only police and military. I don't kill any people."

When the Post

visited the pagoda the following day, blood stains and bullet holes were clearly

visible on the ground and in a roof near where the six were

murdered.

Though Cambodia funerals usually take at least two days, five

of the dead were quickly cremated the day after the attack because of villagers'

fears the KR would return and interrupt their funerals.

One woman said

the KR, before they left, had told villagers: "No need to celebrate funeral. We

will be back later on. Prepare rice for us."

However, a full funeral was

held for the sixth person, one of the elderly Achar, who lived a long way from

the pagoda.

The man's bloody body was cremated as his daughters and other

relatives wept in scorching midday heat.

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