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Ex-guard recalls executions at killing fields in KRT testimony

Makk Sithim gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC
Makk Sithim gives his testimony before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia yesterday during Case 002/02 against Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. ECCC

Ex-guard recalls executions at killing fields in KRT testimony

A former guard who shepherded truckloads of prisoners to their deaths at the infamous Choeung Ek killing fields appeared before the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Him Huy, the latest in a string of high-profile witnesses testifying about the S-21 prison, ferried inmates to Choeung Ek, where thousands were slain and then dumped into freshly dug pits.

In fact, it is his recorded voice that now gives a chilling account to tourists as they wend through the killing fields today.

Now in his early 60s, the former S-21 guard was eventually promoted to the deputy chief of the special unit in charge of security. Yesterday, he told the court that detainees were killed and buried en masse in open spaces to the west and south of prison complex.

Huy testified that between 50 and 100 prisoners were executed at the S-21 site per week or fortnight, but “only after the prisoners gave the full confessions to the interrogators”.

“Usually they took prisoners out to be killed at night time, and I did not have any business to . . . observe,” he said.

That changed when he took charge of transporting and receiving prisoners at Choeung Ek, where he methodically recorded the names of the victims.

“If one prisoner was gone from the list, I would be responsible,” Huy said.

He recalled being hauled into a meeting on account of a missing prisoner.

“That prisoner fled while he was tied to a rope and I was blamed [due to] the disappearance of that prisoner,” he said.

The only time he was set to transport people from the re-education camp at Prey Sar to be executed, he said, the vehicle over-turned before he had a chance to collect the prisoners.

After the fall of Phnom Penh in 1975, Huy was transferred to the naval forces – an ill-fitting move, he said, since he was afraid of crocodiles and unable to swim.

He was then set to work harvesting rice before being transferred again in 1976, this time to S-21, arriving by bicycle under cover of nightfall.

Huy took the stand after former S-21 medic Makk Sithim testified he carried individual prisoners out for burial after they died.

“Every three or four days . . . I would see a prisoner die,” Sithim said.

While he did not witness cases of blood-drawing from inmates, Sithim said he was “terrified” when he found sacks of blood stashed under a staircase.

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