The Khmer Rouge tribunal on Thursday heard the testimony of a former regime soldier who “heard the screams” of prisoners being tortured while he was working as a typist at the notorious Kraing Ta Chan security center—and is also alleged to have carried out torture himself.
Srei Than, 57, also known by the alias “Duch,” has been accused by former inmate Soy Sen of being among the “cruelest” guards, and of raping and killing women.
With his face obscured and home address withheld after the Trial Chamber granted his request for “protective measures,” Mr. Than was not quizzed Thursday on those allegations but confirmed that Mr. Sen, who appeared as a civil party at the tribunal earlier this month, had been held at the prison while he was stationed there.
Mr. Than testified that he joined the Khmer Rouge in late 1973 and was a soldier in Takeo province’s Tram Kak district, which is the current focus of the second phase of the case against former Democratic Kampuchea leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
He told the tribunal that he was transferred to work as a guard on the outer perimeter of Kraing Ta Chan in late 1976, then assigned to be a typist for the security center’s chief the following year.
Assistant prosecutor Dale Lysak read from several passages of interviews Mr. Than previously gave to investigating judges, including one where he described the prison where he worked as “a re-education office.”
“I heard people saying that Kraing Ta Chan was a site to kill people, and that those people brought into the site could not live, meaning that they all died,” Mr. Lysak quoted the witness as saying.
In another passage from an earlier interview, Mr. Than described how he saw prisoners being taken for beatings and interrogations every day in a room about 50 meters from his office, saying “I heard the prisoners’ screams coming from the interrogation room.”
Mr. Than—who was also known as “Little Duch” to distinguish him from the prison’s second-in-command, “Big Duch”—said he could not pinpoint the exact location of the interrogation room on a map of the prison. He also denied that the guards took meals in a dining room next to the torture chamber, saying his unit ate in various locations.
Shown a prison report dated November 1977—which stated that 75 new prisoners arrived, 92 were purged and six died of illness, while one lieutenant colonel was removed to “sector” by “Angkar,” leaving 85 prisoners remaining at the end of the month—Mr. Than said he recognized the handwriting as belonging to the other Duch but denied that such documents were produced on a monthly basis.
“No, there was no such report,” he said, adding that he also had no knowledge of a security office in Tram Kak district to which people were removed.
The hearing was adjourned after about an hour to give the defense teams and civil parties’ lawyers time to review witness statements recently disclosed by the prosecution from the pending Case 004, which are relevant to the ongoing Case 002/02.
Mr. Than’s testimony will continue Monday.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)