Lon Nol soldiers were rounded up, put on trucks and massacred in a remote location by the Khmer Rouge before being buried by a bulldozer.
This was the scene in 1975 at Tuol Po Chrey in Pursat province’s Kandieng district, according to testimony provided to the court Tuesday by Khmer Rouge tribunal witness Ung Chhat.
The 62-year-old, who was a Khmer Rouge guard at the Pursat provincial meeting hall during the regime, gave his testimony before the court as attention turned from military structures and evacuations to the execution of former Lon Nol soldiers, officials and civil servants at the site, which the court estimates to have numbered up to 3,000.
Mr. Chhat told the court that he had been given leave to visit an ailing relative and had passed a village called Po along the way.
Here, he saw Lon Nol soldiers—including a regimental commander named Mr. Pel—rounded up by about 100 Khmer Rouge soldiers and put into trucks.
On his return the next day, he met a group of villagers, who told him that the soldiers had been transported to an area where gunfire erupted.
“The day before, they saw the fleet of trucks taking people and they also heard the gunfire or artillery shells also in the nearby village,” he said.
“I didn’t know how many corpses were over there…. A few days later, I was told that they used a bulldozer to actually bury all of those corpses.
“I actually watched it from the distance. The barracks stretched over around 100 square meters and I only saw the corpses from the outside of the fence of the barracks. I couldn’t recognize the corpses.”
While Mr. Chhat’s grisly descriptions were rich in detail, it was unclear exactly what he did and did not actually see.
Senior Assistant Prosecutor Keith Raynor read statements previously made by Mr. Chhat to investigators—one of which raised questions about his credibility as a witness.
One particularly descriptive passage read: “At the site at Tuol Po Chrey fort, I saw all the dead bodies on the ground with heads pointing north, arms tied to the back, and the corpses were tied up together in 15 to 20 by a rope.
“There were wound marks on the heads and torsos of those corpses, which were clearly visible, and there was a strong smell of blood at the site.”
But when presented with this quote in court, Mr. Chhat insisted that the description was in fact something he heard from other people, and not something he saw himself.
“That’s what people told me. So again I recollect this event through stories told by villagers who saw it first,” he said.
Video evidence presented in court, however, provided a much more gruesome glimpse into the systematic extermination of several thousand people at the site. One villager who was interviewed described the bodies “bubbling” and bellies distended in the heat as they decomposed.
He also described playing with the impaled decapitated heads of two Lon Nol officials—one of which was Commander Pel—which were mounted on poles on the north and south ends of the killing site.