An Anlong Veng killing field revealed by defecting Khmer Rouge soldiers has not been found by government forces and it likely will be some time before it is reached, a senior military official and a local genocide researcher said this week.
Meas Sophea, RCAF deputy chief of general staff, said Monday he has not been able for safety reasons to send a military unit or “experts” to the area, believed to be 6 km east of Anlong Veng at a place known as “Tuol Kruol.”
Meas Sophea noted fears that the area is laced heavily with mines. However, no official demining effort has begun in Anlong Veng, a swath of land believed to be home to between 30,000 and 50,000 people at the time of the March mass defections.
Meas Sophea said reports of a killing field east of Anlong Veng village in his extensive interviews with defected soldiers and commanders are widespread, prompting him to believe they are true.
“I do not know exact numbers, but I have heard about it from defector soldiers and they have said about 100,000 people have been killed there,” he said.
Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, said Tuesday that he hopes to visit the area within the year to confirm the field’s existence and determine how many people were killed there.
He cautioned, however, that the area will be difficult to locate.
To find the hundreds of killing fields left over from the 1970s, Youk Chhang said he has had to “walk across the jungle.”
The researcher has depended on local authorities to help him search for suspected killing fields.
But someone who has been to Tuol Kruol, he said, will likely not reveal any information about it because of their own culpability.
If it exists, Tuol Kruol would be the only known killing field created since the 1970s, according to Youk Chhang.
Defectors have claimed that at least 100,000 people have been executed there, their bodies dumped or left in shallow graves. However, genocide researchers and military analysts have cast doubt on those claims, saying 3,000 is a likelier figure.
Defecting soldiers said earlier this month that a unit of Khmer Rouge soldiers responsible for prison security were to blame.
Craig Etcheson, a genocide researcher with the US-based International Monitors Institute, wrote by e-mail recently that 100,000 “is plausible.”
“It was in late 1993 that the movement took the decision to return to their classical policies, and to purge those who had become ‘contaminated’ during the ‘commercial’ phase of KR policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” Etcheson wrote. “It is plausible that they may have called in many cadre and their families to carry out this new purification of the movement.”
The rebels boycotted the 1993 elections after a brief flirtation with the Paris Peace Accords.
Meas Sophea claimed “San” and “Saroeun,” both high-ranking generals loyal to Pol Pot, were executed at Tuol Kruol in late March by troops loyal to Ta Mok.
The April 23 edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review reported that the men were killed March 26 out of revenge for the mutiny that forced Ta Mok and his loyalists out of Anlong Veng, the rebels’ stronghold since 1990.
Meas Sophea said San commanded division 920 and Saroeun was deputy chief of staff for hard-line forces. Both men were tried with Pol Pot in a show trial in July following an internal power struggle in the rebel ranks that bumped Pol Pot from power.