Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Executions at Choeung Ek "took hours," former guard tells court



Executions at Choeung Ek "took hours," former guard tells court

Executions at Choeung Ek "took hours," former guard tells court

Him Huy gave a chilling account Thursday of executions at the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. Unlike former S-21 deputy Mam Nay, whom Comrade Duch accused of withholding information, Him was very forthcoming in his testimony.

Tuol Sleng detainees destined for the Killing Fields were generally loaded onto trucks around 8pm, under cover of darkness, Him told judges. If they asked where they were being taken, staff had been instructed by deputy chairman Comrade Hor to say they were “going to a new home.”

The ride to Choeung Ek took around 30 minutes. When they arrived, the prisoners were led to a room underneath a small house on the site. A generator was switched on to greet the arriving transports and a light shone from the house. It must have been an eerie scene.

Executioners waited at the nearby pits, which were dug before the prisoners’ arrival, and as far as I can tell, the prisoners were brought over one by one. They were instructed to kneel at the edge of a pit and then struck from behind with the axel of an ox cart. A knife was used to slash their throats – to make sure they were dead – and their clothes and handcuffs were removed before they were thrown into the pits.

Executions “took hours,” said Him, who often stood guard during the process, and generally lasted until 1-2 am.

The intimate and drawn-out nature of S-21 executions struck me as particularly disturbing. Due to the low-tech methods employed, executions were an incredibly hands-on and inefficient process. There would be no way anyone even peripherally involved could deny the full truth of what was happening.

I was also interested to learn that executioners were very afraid of not completing their task before dawn. Him mentioned that there were several times this almost happened and they had to rush to finish. Why this need for secrecy? Were they truly concerned that if members of the general population found out there would be some sort of backlash? After all, people frequently disappeared from DK villages and this did not lead to popular uprisings.

Contradicting Comrade Duch’s previous testimony, Him said he had seen the former Tuol Sleng chief twice at the Killing Fields. His testimony will continue on Monday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Mr Pancake or M Crepe? Tasty by any title

    Crowds of people gather around a lone man with a mobile food cart every day at around 2pm in front of the Institut Francais du Cambodge to order what many say are the best crepes in Phnom Penh. To some – even to the man making

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused

  • PM sets tourism reopening as centrepiece of ATF 2022

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged ASEAN to reopen tourism and trade now that many of the bloc’s member countries have vaccinated their populations. Speaking at the 40th ASEAN Tourism Forum 2022 (ATF 2022) in Preah Sihanouk province on January 18, the premier also said ASEAN has a