Duch Sealed S-21 Fates With Notes to ‘Smash,’ Witness Says

Kaing Guek Eav, the S-21 prison chief better known as Duch, sealed the fates of inmates by simply writing the word “smash” next to their names on prisoner lists, a former prison administrator told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday.

Born in 1951, Suos Thy was responsible for writing brief biographies for those brought to the notorious security center, where more than 15,000 prisoners are thought to have been sent to their deaths.

Suos Thy stands during proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)
Suos Thy stands during proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)

The witness, who also testified in Case 001—which saw Duch become the first Khmer Rouge official convicted of crimes against humanity—said the prison chief would indicate those slated for execution by jotting in the margins of the lists he kept.

“[Each] annotation for outgoing prisoners was made by Duch,” Mr. Thy told senior assistant prosecutor Vincent de Wilde. “[The] annotation…was [in] the margin of the page, and he wrote the word ‘kom’ in Khmer—the word ‘kom’ means ‘kom tich’ or ‘smash.”’

Earlier in the day, the witness was asked about a clip from filmmaker Rithy Panh’s “S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine,” in which Mr. Thy states that those who passed through the prison gates were “already dead.”

“I know that the prisoners who came into S-21 were already considered dead. They never returned back to their places and survived,” Mr. Thy reiterated to the court.

“I said they were dead already when they came in. I, at the time, felt sympathy for them, but I could not do anything. They came into that location, and I had to register their names so I could not help them,” he said. “Not a single prisoner was released.”

Duch—described by Mr. Thy as the “sole decision-maker” at the prison—will return to the tribunal next week to testify in the current phase of Case 002, in which Khmer Rouge second-in-command Nuon Chea and the regime’s former head of state, Khieu Samphan, are on trial for crimes including genocide.

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