In his second day of testimony regarding a detention center est-ablished prior to the Pol Pot re-gime, former S-21 prison chairman Kaing Guek Eav told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Tuesday that in four years of operation the M-13 camp executed as few as 200 people, a claim that contradicted statements made to researchers by former detainees.
The accused, better known as Duch, portrayed the execution system at the M-13 detention camp, which operated at three locations in Anlong Veng and Kompong Speu province between 1971 and 1975, as far less elaborate than the bloodletting that followed at S-21 under Democratic Kampuchea.
Despite accepting general re-sponsibility for crimes committed under his command, Duch gave an account that carefully excluded numerous allegations and said he had personally participated in the torture of only two people at M-13.
With rare exceptions, torture methods mainly involved beating, Duch told the court, adding that orders to “smash,” or execute, prisoners were given by former Southwest Zone Secretary Ta Mok and former Western Zone Secretary Chou Chet.
“Even though the decision was made at the upper echelons, at my level, I was responsible,” Duch said. “I would like to apologize to the souls of those who died. I still cannot forget their names.”
Under questioning by Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne, Duch told the court he had never personally executed anyone and never visited the site of executions at M-13.
“I kept reminding them not to let the people escape before they were smashed and to make sure they could not scream so that their executions were compromised. This was my regular task,” Duch said.
Contrary to statements given in 2001 to the Documentation Center of Cambodia, Duch denied that detainees’ blood was collected in basins as they died, that needles were inserted under their fingernails, that fingernails were torn out, that detainees cut with knives were forced to ingest soapy water or that children were made to commit acts of violence.
Duch said that instructions were issued by Vorn Vet, the regime’s future minister of the economy who was himself purged at S-21 in 1978, that M-13 detainees were to be smothered with plastic bags-a technique imported from the Viet-namese—but that it could not be carried out.
“The yuon used a plastic bag to cover the head,” Duch said, using a derogatory term for Vietnamese. “I could not use it because in the liberated zones we could not find any plastic bags,” he said.
He also denied that, as former detainee Ham In told DC-Cam, as many as 30,000 people were executed at M-13. Lavergne told the court that Ham In could not be called as a witness as he had died in 2003.
“Having listened to the statement read out by your honor, I think there will be another event that needs to be investigated, especially the dead bodies of the de-tainees who were smashed at M-13,” Duch said, adding that bodies were located nearby.
“The remaining evidence can prove that the people died, when, and how many of them were bur-ied there,” he said.
“I would like to offer condolences to the families of the dead people, but again, only 200 to 300 detainees were smashed at M-13, not 30,000,” said Duch, who told the court Monday that the policy at M-13 was to kill all detainees after interrogation.
After observing Duch’s testimony Tuesday, historian Henri Lo-card, who has studied the Khmer Rouge prison networks both be-fore and after 1975 but not specifically M-13, said he believed the true death toll lay somewhere be-tween Ham In’s statement and Duch’s claim.
“The tactic is that the more [Duch] insists on his criminal re-sponsibility, the more he minimizes the direct criminal acts that he committed,” said Locard, noting that the court had not sought, during questioning, to establish the total prisoner population of M-13.
“I believe no more a figure of 30,000 than I do a figure of 300,” he said. “We have no idea of the number of people who were in that prison,” he added.
Prosecutors completed their questioning and the trial was adjourned Tuesday. Civil party lawyers Tuesday had not yet finished putting questions to the accused before the hearing was adjourned.
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