Former Choeung Ek Guard Describes Executions at Pits

Freshly dug pits awaited prisoners arriving at the Choeung Ek killing fields on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, where they were executed via a blow to the head and a slit throat, a former guard at the site told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday.

Tay Teng testified that he executed prisoners transferred from the S-21 Security Center in the city, where he had previously been a guard, but stressed that his primary role had been to dig and watch over burial pits.

After first denying that he had played any role in the executions for which Choeung Ek is now infamous, he later backtracked when confronted by the prosecution with the written testimony of a tribunal investigator in which Mr. Teng is said to have admitted that he had in fact executed prisoners on the command of his boss.

“Under the orders of Him Huy I was forced to do that task. What I said in the document is correct,” he said, adding that his involvement had been “very minimal.”

From behind a curtain and with his voice distorted, conditions he requested of the court, Mr. Teng outlined the process by which prisoners were escorted to Choeung Ek by Mr. Huy.

“Before they brought in prisoners, Huy actually told us days in advance to prepare those pits,” he said, explaining that they were usually 3 meters by 2 meters, 2 meters deep and capable of holding between 10 to 20 bodies.

He said that the prisoners, blindfolded and handcuffed, normally arrived in a truck at around 7 p.m., accompanied by two or three armed guards, and that his team of guards was waiting.

“Prisoners were instructed to get off the vehicle and enter the wooden house, where there were cells or small rooms,” he said. “When the prisoners were brought away to be killed, each of them [was] taken out one at a time, until all were killed.”

“Each of them was told to sit at the rim of the pit, and then that individual was smashed,” he added.

Pressed to recall the number of prisoners executed at the site, Mr. Teng said he had not taken notes at the time and could not offer an estimate.

In the court’s morning session, the three-day testimony of former S-21 photographer Nhem En concluded with Mr. En being pressed on his various attempts to profit from his experiences—including his unsuccessful attempt to sell memorabilia including Pol Pot’s shoes.

“That is true. After the financial crisis…I lost a lot of money, and the shoes together with the memorabilia was attempted to be sold at the price of $1 million,” he said.

Beyond providing “the truth and the fact” to the court, Mr. En admitted to having a secondary motive for testifying. “It is a good opportunity for me to advertise about my books,” he said.

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