Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Story of Choeung Ek told in human bones

Story of Choeung Ek told in human bones

Story of Choeung Ek told in human bones

Of 6,426 sets of human remains ex-humed from Choeung Ek, an orchard transformed into a mass gravesite during Khmer Rouge rule, only one skull was discovered without indications of torture or heavy beating, expert witness Voeun Vuthy told the Khmer Rouge tribunal yesterday.

Vuthy – who specialises in remains analysis and bone conservation, and who had led a group that collected evidence from the remains of Khmer Rouge victims – was called to shed light on the history of the bones discovered in Cambodia’s infamous killing fields, and the methods used to dispose of the regime’s undesirables.

The tribunal is continuing to hear testimony related to the personal accountability of former Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan for crimes against humanity committed under their regime.

“The skull is an important part to identify the gender and age of the victim, and whether or not the victim was tortured and beaten during the period,” he said.

“First, we take out the bones or the remains to study marks or traces . . . Then we cleaned the bones, before photographs were taken,” Vuthy explained, going into detail about the various stages of his work.

Vuthy and his group were able to differentiate between the remains of people who died during the Khmer Rouge period and those who died beforehand because the regime used the pesticide DDT to spray gravesites, he explained. They also analysed mud attached to the remains.

Victims’ remains were divided into two groups depending on whether they were killed by brute force or if they died as the result of medical experiments. “Poison usually transforms the shape of the bones and the colour of the bones,” he said. “The bones at the lips . . . change colour.”

Prisoners were often beaten with bamboo, iron bars and clubs, the witness explained. Knives, hoes and axes were also used to strike the victims on the head and the back of the neck. Some of the victims were tortured with iron rods jabbed into their ears. Others had their ears cut off entirely.

When asked how bone analysis could prove that a victim’s ears had been removed, the witness explained that the force of a knife or other tool left scars on the bones.

Of the victims, 1,611 were women, 4,798 were men, and 17 were children, the youngest of whom was 3 years old.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government set to slash holidays

    The private sector has welcomed the government’s move to reduce the number of public holidays in the in the Kingdom – known for having the most public holidays in the world – by seven days. However, the government had just added the “Day of Remembrance” on

  • ‘Kingdom lacks up to 400MW in available electricity’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the general public, hoteliers and businesspeople with generators to use them as back-up as the Electricity Authority of Cambodia cannot generate enough electricity to meet needs due to low water levels in power station reservoirs. On Saturday evening

  • Kith Theang being held in PJ prison

    Kith Theang, the brother of prominent businessman Kith Meng, was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court late on Monday and sent to the capital’s Police Judiciare (PJ) prison over the nearly 50kg of drugs found in a February 23 raid by authorities on the Rock

  • Sor Chandeth defends his criticism of Hun Sen

    Former senator Sor Chandeth has defended his choice of words when criticising Hun Sen, saying he was merely speaking metaphorically to attack the Prime Minister’s political life, not his actual person, as the latter seeks damages. [img] Chandeth spoke to The Post on Thursday,