Nuon Chea Ordered Immolation of Westerners, Duch Says

Kaing Guek Eav, the S-21 prison chief better known as Duch, laid further accusations at the feet of Nuon Chea while under questioning at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday, claiming the regime’s second-in-command personally ordered that four Western inmates be burned to ash.

Duch was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2010 and is serving a life sentence at the Kandal Provincial Prison. He is testifying in the second phase of the tribunal’s Case 002—in which Nuon Chea and Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan are on trial for crimes including genocide.

Duch testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)
Duch testifies at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (ECCC)

Asked by Marie Guiraud, a lawyer for the civil parties participating in the trial, about the fate of two Americans captured at sea by the Khmer Rouge navy in late 1978—Michael Scott Deeds and Christopher Edward DeLance—Duch said the men met barbaric ends at S-21, along with two other Westerners.

“They were arrested on charges of trespassing [in] the territory of Kampuchea in order to obtain information. They were interrogated and then they were smashed,” Duch said of the four.

When the Westerners were first detained at S-21, Duch said, Nuon Chea called him to a meeting and ordered that they be exterminated.

“He called me to meet him for work purposes and that was at the Buddhist School of Soramrith. There, he told me that the…people had to be smashed and that they had to be burned completely,” Duch said.

“Any Westerner was arrested and smashed by us. Allow me to repeat what he said: ‘We did not want to follow Cuba because they detained American prisoners in exchange for tractors, but here we had to burn them to ashes.’ That was the strict instruction that I had to follow,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Duch outlined brutal and bizarre torture techniques employed under his watch at S-21.

Some prisoners were ordered to bow down in front of images of dogs, Duch said, claiming that the canines were meant to represent former U.S. President Richard Nixon and Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh.

“The cartoon of a human body with a dog head…that image refers to Ho Chi Minh and Nixon. The prisoners were asked to salute the image, the two images, and memorize, ‘Oh, my god and goddess,’” Duch said.

After confessions were obtained through methods including electric shocks and suffocation with plastics bags, Duch recalled, reports about the interrogations were sent to Nuon Chea.

During the final session of the day, the former prison chief vigorously refuted claims that numerous rapes were committed at S-21 and stated that testimony from a previous witness describing the rape of an inmate on a staircase was “beyond belief.”

“I do not believe it was that easy to sexually rape a woman in the open. If that is the case, that person would be beheaded,” Duch said.

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