Prisoners Killed Over Infection Fears: Duch

Prisoners with sexually transmitted infections and other diseases were promptly sent to their deaths at Phnom Penh’s notorious S-21 security center for fear that they would infect other inmates, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav told the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Monday.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, oversaw the torture and execution of more than 15,000 people at the prison in Phnom Penh and in 2010 became the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty of crimes committed during the Pol Pot regime.

Duch stands during proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Monday. (ECCC)
Duch stands during proceedings at the Khmer Rouge tribunal in Phnom Penh on Monday. (ECCC)

He is currently testifying in the second phase of Case 002 against Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan and second-in-command Nuon Chea, who are on trial for crimes including genocide.

Presented with a prisoner register from S-21 at the court on Monday, Duch was asked by assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak why five of the inmates were listed as having infectious diseases.

“What was the reason that people with diseases were being sent from Prey Sar to Choeung Ek, to S-21, for execution?” Mr. Lysak asked.

“The prisoners had infectious diseases—that is, sexually transmitted diseases and TB,” Duch responded.

“What was the reason for killing these people, Mr. Witness?” Mr. Lysak continued.

“The first reason is that they could infect other inmates. Second, we did not have medicinal treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis,” Duch replied.

The former prison chief was then asked about groups of inmates described on the lists as “seriously incapacitated,” “move freely” and “lascivious.”

“I believe the solution to these problems was the principle that we implemented…that is: ‘To keep is no gain, to remove means no loss,’” Duch said, reciting a widely used Khmer Rouge expression.

Later in the day, Duch told of how Nuon Chea ordered him to record confessions of Vietnamese soldiers so that the audio could be broadcast.

“There was an upper order regarding the questioning of Yuon soldiers and the purpose was for them to confess that they invaded Kampuchea and they wanted to use Kampuchea as an umbrella of Indochina,” he said, using an often derogatory term for Vietnamese people.

“Their voices would be recorded and broadcast and they required two segments of five minutes each per week,” he added.

“I received an order from brother Nuon regarding the audio recording of the confession,” he said, adding that Pol Pot’s nephew Theng also filmed the confessions.

Once they had been recorded and filmed, Duch said, the fate of Vietnamese inmates was sealed.

“In principle, both [Vietnamese] civilians and soldiers had to be smashed,” he said.

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