A former guard at Kraing Ta Chan prison in Tram Kak district on Tuesday denied accusations at the Khmer Rouge tribunal that he helped to murder babies at the security center but admitted that young children were killed there.
Saut Saing, who said he was transferred to the Takeo province jail in 1976 after about three years fighting with the Khmer Rouge, refuted accusations made by former prisoner Soy Sen last month that he witnessed Mr. Saing hit a baby over the head with a hoe.
“As for the killing of the children, allow me to clarify. At the Kraing Ta Chan compound there was no palm trees. And whatever Soy Sen says, that is his business,” he said.
Mr. Saing, whose face was obscured from the public due to a request for protective measures, conceded that babies were murdered inside the jail.
“Children and young babies were killed at Kraing Ta Chan because from my personal observations…when the mothers disappeared the children would also disappear,” he said.
Mr. Saing—who was appearing at the tribunal as a civil party and victim of the Khmer Rouge due to the deaths of his mother and siblings during the regime—also denied Mr. Sen’s claim that he asked the former inmate to say they were both ex-prisoners at Kraing Ta Chan if questioned.
Despite claiming he never interrogated or executed prisoners—more than 15,000 are said to have perished at Kraing Ta Chan—Mr. Saing described witnessing inmates being tortured to extract confessions and seeing others murdered.
“At Kraing Ta Chan, prisoners were killed with the head of hoes or with a bamboo club…. I had a glimpse of it from a distance,” he said.
Mr. Saing maintained that his primary role was to guard the prison’s perimeter and said he was warned during meetings with prison chiefs Ta An, Ta Penh and Ta Cheng that he would be killed if any of the inmates escaped on his watch.
“First I was indoctrinated by the chiefs of the security so that I could provide security and safety for the whole of the Kraing Ta Chan security office,” he said. “I was asked to voice my commitment that if one person or prisoner escaped, my life would end.”
He added that guards would be ordered to patrol the center’s gates to ensure nobody entered while prisoners were being executed.