A video of Vietnamese prisoners being executed and disemboweled was shown to staff at Phnom Penh’s S-21 security center to celebrate the anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s overthrow of the Lon Nol regime, a former guard told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Wednesday.
Him Huy painted a hellish picture of life at the center of the Khmer Rouge security apparatus, making numerous references to executions and disembowelment of perceived enemies who perished during his tenure at the notorious prison.
Describing a celebration on April 17—the anniversary of the day in 1975 that black-clad communist soldiers rolled into Phnom Penh after defeating the Khmer Republic—Mr. Huy said hundreds of staff members from S-21 and Prey Sar prison were shown video footage of captured Vietnamese soldiers.
“What I saw in the film was that they were ordered to walk in a file, and later on they were executed and disemboweled,” he said.
“Everyone was there watching the film. They had a big screen there, but from my recollection, there was no sound in the film,” Mr. Huy said, adding that he could not remember in what year they were shown the video.
Despite initially claiming that he could not remember whether S-21 chief Kaing Guek Eav—better known by the revolutionary alias Duch—was present for the screening, he later confirmed that the feared warden was there.
Mr. Huy said the fate of prisoners had been sealed upon walking through the gates of S-21, recalling that Duch—who in 2010 became the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty at the tribunal—once explained that every person who entered the prison was destined for extermination.
Not content with simply killing those who were brought to the security center, the witness said, Duch informed prison staff that “networks” of perceived enemies also needed to be eradicated, including families of accused traitors.
“It was Duch who gave us that instruction that if you dig the grass you have to dig the root as well,” he said. “Duch taught us that if people were arrested, then all those links to his network also had to be arrested, including the wife, the family members or the mothers or fathers.”
Babies and young children were initially detained in a large cell with their mothers before guards separated them, Mr. Huy said, adding that he was told the children were killed near the prison compound while their parents met their fate at the Choeung Ek killing fields.
“If the children had been sent together with the parents, those children would have cried along the way,” he explained.
Mr. Huy—who reserved his right to remain silent when pressed about whether he had killed prisoners at Choeung Ek—said Duch and his deputy Hor also gave lessons in killing techniques.
“They drew from their experience how to kill the prisoners, and they told us where to strike: So a prisoner should be struck at the [nape] of the neck, then the throat had to be slashed. After that, the [hand]cuff had to be removed, new clothes had to be stripped, once the prisoner was disemboweled then thrown into the pit,” he said, noting that Duch and Hor insisted on gutting inmates due to concerns that their bodies would bloat.
Mr. Huy said he had also witnessed the bodies of two Western prisoners burning on a road to the north of the security center, and that Duch had ordered that they be cremated rather than buried.
Last week, former interrogator Prak Khan said he had been told that Australian inmate David Scott and an American man were burned with tires at a former church near S-21.
“I heard Hor said that Duch wanted to burn the bodies since they were foreigners and they should be buried as the dead bodies might have some gas coming out,” Mr. Huy said on Wednesday.