KHMER ROUGE PRISONS AND PRISON CAMPS

KHMER ROUGE PRISONS AND PRISON CAMPS

According to Yale University’s Genocide Program there were 158 prisons and prison camps in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years where torture, interrogations and executions took place.

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “The detention center had about 60 of Khmer Rouge soldiers as guards. They would count and record the number of prisoners regularly. Those young soldiers cursed, beat and did whatever they wanted to the prisoners. Having been in prison for almost 2 years, 28 prisoners and I were released and sent to Memai Bridge, about 55 kilometers from Siem Reap province. Before leaving, the prison chief had advised me to try my best to fulfill Angkar’s assignments so that I did not return to prison. Moreover, he gave us 12 pigs. As the truck drove out of the detention center, I began to feel as if I had come back to life again. A week after I started working at the bridge, I heard that my wife, daughter and mother-in-law had been moved and were living about 4 kilometers away. [Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

Arrested by the Khmer Rouge

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “One night in 1977 while I was sleeping, a group of Khmer Rouge militiamen with weapons came to my hut and arrested me. They hit me with their rifles butt until I pissed. My arms were tied and handcuffed behind my back. My brother-in-law was also arrested that night. As the Khmer Rouge led me to the truck, my mother-in-law cried out loudly, “Where are taking my son to?” They responded angrily, “We arrest only those who betray Angkar.” All ten prisoners in the truck were sent to a detention center in Siem Reap. My arms swelled up, my legs were shackled, and I hurt from the wounds the Khmer Rouge had given me. I looked around and saw about 300 prisoners who were shackled, sleeping in rows. [Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

“When morning came, five soldiers brought their notebooks to record the biographies of the new prisoners. The militiaman asked me about my previous job. I answered that I was a motorbike repairman. In detention, we had only watery porridge and soup made of banana and rambutan leaves, and a green vegetable. Two female prisoners cooked for the prisoners. ==

Arriving at Khmer Rouge Prison Camps

In his book “Cambodia: Year Zero,” French physician François Ponchaud wrote: “When we got out of the train at the station in Sisophon a reception committee was waiting for us. Loudspeakers welcomed us and asked all "specialists" to step forward: doctors, architects, schoolteachers, students, technicians, and skilled workers of all kinds. The Angkar was going to need them. I didn't move, but a man who had been a nurse under me and was now a Khmer Rouge cadre recognized me and strongly advised me to tell them my true identity or risk punishment. Then all the "specialists" were taken to Preah Neth Preah, where we had to work the land as before. One day we were taken to Chup, a village on the road between Siem Reap and Sisophon. There the Khmer Rouge received us with open arms and gave us three meals a day! That was a real treat! [Source:François Ponchaud, Cambodia: Year Zero, translated by Nancy Amphoux (New York: Holts Rinehart and Winston, 1978), pp. 67, 6970 ++]

“At one big meeting, attended by 397 "specialists," a Khmer Rouge asked us to write our biographies and set down our desiderata. He even invited us to come up to the platform and offer our suggestions as to bow the country could be better run. Teachers and students went up and began criticizing the Angkar for not giving people anything to eat, and for treating the sick with medicine that was more like rabbit dung than real pills; they asked for the bonzes to be reinstated and the pagodas reopened, and the high schools and universities, and for everyone to be allowed to visit his family, et cetera. The Khmer Rouge said nothing, but we could see plainly enough that they didn't like it. After we had written our autobiographies they called out die names of twenty young people who had been most outspoken in their criticism, tied their hands behind their backs the way you tie a parrot's wings, and took them to Sisophon, where they were put in prison. The rest of us went back to the village of Preah Neth Preah. ++

“A month later, on January 6, the Khmer Rouge came to get some of us and took us to dle Battambang prison. There were fortyfive of us, and we were the first Zguests" of the prison since the new regime began. We had to write out our autobiographies several more times. Each time the cadres became more insistent: "You've made good progress since the last time but we know that some of you are still not telling the whole truth! We know what that truth is, why hide it? The Angkar doesn't want to kill you, don't be afraid! By acting the way you are, you show that you have not been converted." After three sessions, one of my friends revealed that he had been an army doctor. A week later he disappeared. We had been there two weeks when the group of twenty young people interned at Sisophon were brought in; their arms were still tied at all times, even during meals, and the ropes had cut deep furrows. We also saw a former lieutenant colonel of the government army brought in, and about twenty [republican] MPs. After a few days they were taken away one at a time and we didn't see them again. Now and then one of us was summoned for a "meeting," and sometimes the person did not come back. ++

“At the end of two and onehalf months in prison fifteen of us were taken to the Van Kandal pagoda, which had also been made into a prison. There were three buildings in the pagoda: The doors and windows of one were kept permanently shut-that was where the prisoners were beaten, and some people had been in it for seven months. The windows of the second building were opened from time to time. The third building, where I was put, was for prisoners who stayed only a short time, usually two or three weeks. Its doors and windows were always open until 6:00 P.M. We had reeducation sessions, study meetings, we were subjected to constant interrogations. Those of us who were Europeantrained doctors and engineers were questioned even more than the others, because we were suspected of having worked with the imperialists or been engaged in secret activities. In the evening, when we were taking our bath in the Stung Sangker, we saw other prisoners bathing, for although the houses on the other bank were always shut up, there were prisoners in them too. After ten days we were given a black garment and a gray and red krama [scarf] and put in a truck. Half the group was let out at Poy Saman and the other half at Kauk Khmwn to go on working in the field. That was April 6, 1976. ++

Life in a Khmer Rouge Prison

Chhim Sam Ol, a 45 year-old farmer living in Ta Cho Village, Sarikakeo Commune, Sva Em District, Kandal Province, was a Khmer Rouge prisoner in the Eastern Zone in 1974 and 1975. Describing the anguish he experienced during his detainment, he told Vannak Huy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia: “I wept when they shackled me. I felt so miserable for this life-changing suffering - sleeping on the ground like animals, fleas all over the body, skin diseases, etc. During the Phchum Ancestor Festival, I could see numerous people carrying offerings to the pagodas through the window. As for me, I cried in custody.” Chhim Sam Ol relates the story of his detention below. The Khmer Rouge then brought us to a reeducation camp in Prek Rey, Lvea Em District. I was detained there for two weeks. When they escorted us, I was not afraid. But when they shackled us, I began to fear, shedding tears.” [Source: Vannak Huy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Survivors/18\/]

“Life in the prison was harsh. The utensils we ate with were the open containers used to feed pigs, and we used crab shells as spoons. During this time, the prison’s security guards called me to write my autobiography three times. A guard banged the table and said, ‘You are all members of the militia unit!’ Because they intimidated me, I told them the truth. Every one of us was questioned. Of the three times I was called to be questioned, I told them a lie that ‘I don’t have any relatives.’ Previous captives told me that if I told them the truth about this, the Khmer Rouge would search for my relatives. \/

“In addition to questioning us, the Khmer Rouge guards ordered all the prisoners to work at farms, collect firewood, move earth, and carry water to the tanks with our hands and shoulders. The prisoners were forced to work continuously all day long, and were provided insufficient food.” During his one year of detainment, Sam Ol was moved to three different reeducation camps. He revealed: “After being detained at Prek Rey prison for two weeks, the Khmer Rouge moved 15 prisoners including me to Snay Pol reeducation camp in Pea Reang District, Prey Veng Province for one day before continuing to Prek Kralanh reeducation camp. Prisoners who were relocated from Prek Rey prison to Snay Pol prison were not shackled. Instead, the Khmer Rouge tied them using only sewing thread. ‘Anybody who causes the threads to detach will be shot immediately!’ Luckily, the guards did not mean what they said, because as we were walking, if someone walked too fast, the person behind him had to remind the person in front: ‘Don’t walk too fast, the thread will be detached.’ Whenever the threads broke, the prisoners spoke in fright, ‘Help! Help connect the threads together.’ The Khmer Rouge soldiers roared with laughter when they heard that. \/

“When we reached a village consisting of approximately ten families, the villagers came out. They were carrying sticks, knives, axes, and hoes. They gathered around the prisoners saying, ‘Comrades! Exchange chickens with us! These men are imperialists! Take our chickens!’ All of the prisoners were scared stiff of being slaughtered by the villagers. Fortunately, Santebal prohibited them. They led us for three more days until we reached Snay Pul prison. In fact, the distance from Prek Rey to Snay Pul was only a day’s walk. At night, the guards led the prisoners from Snay Pul to Prek Kralanh prison, which was my final prison.” Sam Ol was detained in Prek Kralanh for almost a year. On 17 April 1975 when the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh, he was allowed to farm for the new regime, which he called a “prison without walls.” /\

Inside a Khmer Rouge Prison

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “Later the militiamen put me in a small stone cell that was large enough for only two prisoners. It held a jar and a steel helmet for containing excrement and urine. Three days later, the Khmer Rouge put another prisoner in my cell. His name was Sim, a district chief of Chikreng, who was accused of betraying the revolution. In the morning, the militiamen would take him out for interrogation. Every prison guard had keys, a stick, ax, metal pipe, hammer, a walking stick with a knife hidden inside, and electric wire twisted in bundle. At noon, they bought him back to detention, and a moment later the guard would bring a small plate of rice and bowl of soup for him. Sim would eat half and leave the other half for me. In the afternoon, he was taken out for questioning again. In the evening, the guard brought Sim back. He told me in a whisper that if Angkar asked him whether he betrayed the revolution or not, he would rather answer “yes” to avoid being hurt. But he would surely die no matter whether the answer was “yes” or “no.”[Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

“I was completely desperate and thought that I could never come back home and meet my family. I ate anything I could find, including, crickets, grasshoppers, frogs, toads, tadpoles, crabs, and wild leaves. All the working prisoners had to seek permission from the guards before doing anything, even such mundane activities as going to the toilet, picking up things to eat, or drinking. If we did something without their consent, we would be beaten until the Khmer Rouge felt content. One day, I tried to take a small portion of dry porridge from the bottom of a pot. But a guard saw me and hit my neck with an oar until my vision blurred. Another day, I picked up a jackfruit seed that a guard had thrown away. This time, he told me to kneel down and then beat me on the waist with a huge stick. ==

“And one day, another prisoner and I were carrying a pot of porridge that was hung from a pole when a guard named Sam pushed the other prisoner. The pole lurched forward, and I fell down. The boiling porridge, which had just been taken from the fire, burned my legs, arm, and torso. Because we had no medicine, I collected rotten banana tree trunks, soaked them in lubricant, and applied the salve on my wounds. Seven days later, my body swelled up like that of a corpse. I was miserable for the next three months until I recovered. If a prisoner intended to escape, the guards would beat that person to death. I once witnessed a guard beating a boy. “Why did you run?” he asked. “I miss my parents so much,” answered the boy. The guard savagely hit him on his back and said, “Your mother was killed, you son of traitor!” The boy, too, was murdered the following night. ==

“One day, a guard ordered me and another prisoner named Sei to repair a US covered truck at the district court. The truck had been used as a military ambulance during the Lon Nol regime. While we were mending it, Sei murmured softly, “Rith, have you ever seen the knife used for killing people?” “No, never” I answered. Sei said, “If you want to find out, have a look in back of the driver’s seat.” I peeked in and saw a rusty, saw-bladed knife covered with blood. Another day while I was working near the forge, a Khmer Rouge soldier named Prunh ordered a worker to temper iron and make two knives with large round handles. Prunh said, “The previous knives were kind of difficult to use. This time, you have to make it properly; otherwise, you will die.” On hearing this, I became very frightened. ==

Working in a Khmer Rouge Prison

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “A few days later, the guard unlocked my shackles and ordered me to fix motorbikes. He led me to a court where I saw a covered truck, three motorbikes, screwdrivers, and six Khmer Rouge soldiers. “You must repair these well; otherwise, I will take your life,” they threatened. With trembling hands, I tried to fix the bikes. At noon, the guard took me back to prison. In the afternoon, I was taken out to work again.[Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

“One evening while I was working, a young Khmer Rouge soldier got out of an A-2 truck and asked me, “How long have you studied fixing motorbikes?” “I have had this skill since 1968,” I responded. He then asked, “Did you ever join the army?” “No, never,” I said.I was then moved to a big cell that held 50 prisoners. In the morning, the militiamen took me out to repair a C-90 motorbike that belonged to the son of the region chief. One day, near Thaom Yuth pagoda, a young Khmer Rouge cadre brought me a bicycle to paint. A lot of Khmer Rouge cadres watched me. Seeing that I was doing a good job, they brought more bicycles for me to paint. ==

In addition to repairing motorbikes, I carried pots, distributed helmets the prisoners used as food containers, collected human waste for making fertilizer, and buried dead prisoners. Because I worked near the detention center, I saw the trucks bringing new prisoners and taking the old ones out. On average, 200-300 new prisoners come in every day, and about the same number were taken away. Sometimes the Khmer Rouge took the prisoners out twice a day. They were beaten by the guards each time they were interrogated. ==

Transferred from a Khmer Rouge Prison to a Prison Without Walls

Sam Ol told Vannak Huy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia: “When I was detained in Prek Rey prison for a week, the chief of the prison told us in a meeting that ‘We’ll move on in order to live with our people.’ I was very glad to hear about living with ordinary people, but in reality they brought us to another prison, Prek Kralanh. At Prek Kralanh the prison chief said that ‘We come here to get conditioned. So, try hard to rebuild yourself from today on.’ I was always wondering, ‘How do I temper and build myself?’ The Khmer Rouge conditioned the prisoners on every aspect of their lives from sleeping to walking to eating: ‘Train and train until the prisoners became skinny and bony.’ The Khmer Rouge turned schools into prisons. There were about 30 prisoners at my prison. Five inmates were kept in a single room. We were provided two meals a day-at 11 a.m. and at 5 p.m. A ladle of porridge was given to each prisoner and a bowl of crab sour-soup for five prisoners in a meal. The soup had half a crab and five slices of giant cactus tree as a vegetable. Each person was allowed only one spoon of soup. We did not have real bowls for our rice or porridge; they were made instead from palm leaves. We had to gulp our thin boiled-rice immediately after the cooks poured it into our leaf bowls; otherwise it would be gone in seconds through leaks. We gulped down the boiled-rice first and drank the soup later. “At dawn, the deputy chief of security assigned us to do various jobs. Some were appointed to transplant rice. Others were told to pull rice seedlings or fill water tanks. The chief prohibited all inmates from communicating with villagers. When meeting villagers, a prisoner was not to tell them about his or her miserable life in prison, for this was ‘a secret of Angkar.’ What a prisoner should tell them was that ‘food is plentiful and life in prison is fine.’ [Source: Vannak Huy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Survivors/18\/]

“One day in Phchum Ben season, I fetched water from a well at a pagoda. Just when my bucket reached the water, a monk arrived and asked me, ‘Do you have enough food to eat in prison?’ Then I replied frankly that ‘I don’t have anything to eat, except a bowl of boiled-rice.’ With pity, the monk handed me three ansam chruks [a kind of traditional cake with a combination of pork and sticky rice made especially during Phchum Ben season]. ‘Eat carefully, do not let them know,’ he said. To me the cakes were like gold. I thought that ‘this time I would have a chance to eat delicious food.’ I kept one in my pleat, another one folded into my trouser waist, and held the third one in my hand. Just as I was about to eat the one I was holding, a Khmer Rouge guard appeared from nowhere and shouted at me, ‘You’ve stolen them from other people!’ Then the guard hit me four times with his gun butt. I fell flat to the ground close to the well, and then the guard took my cakes away. The villagers preferred to feed the prisoners, but the Khmer Rouge not only took the food away, they blamed the villagers if they wanted to give food to them. [Source: Vannak Huy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Survivors/18\/]

“What I’ve never forgotten was the time when I met my older brother as the guards were leading me and other inmates to transplant rice. When I saw my brother, I asked him, ‘Brother! Where have you come from?’ After my brother had walked past, a Khmer Rouge soldier asked me, ‘Who did you talk to?’ ‘I called my brother,’ I told him. Suddenly, he hit violently three times using the butt of his gun and warned me, ‘Do not do this again! If you want to ask him, ask me first.’ The Khmer Rouge guards working at the prison were mostly teenagers between the ages of 16 to 17, yet the prisoners did not have enough physical strength to revolt. As an example, a strong gust of wind could easily knock me down if I did not walk carefully outside the prison. \/

Death in a Khmer Rouge Prison

Chhim Sam Ol told Vannak Huy of the Documentation Center of Cambodia: ““All prisoners had the same fate. The difference was just a matter of time. Some died of swelling caused by lack of food. Other died attempting to escape.” Sam Ol emphasized the causes of death: “Most prisoners were too weak to work under the sun, because they were provided very little food to eat… They were pale and easily infected by disease, causing the body to swell and fluids to flow out. One night five prisoners attempted to escape through the door. Unfortunately, the chief of the unit knew and informed the security chief. In the morning, the security chief called all prisoners to attend the meeting and asked, ‘Listen! Who made an attempt to escape last night?’ All prisoners replied that they did not know anything. ‘You all conspire to lie to me! You wanted to escape last night!’ said the chief. However, the chief had known everything, since the chief of the unit who had informed him was a former prisoner assigned to keep a lookout on the activities of other prisoners and report on them to the security chief. We did not know where this lookout worked in the daytime, but he returned to sleep inside the cell with other prisoners at night. When the meeting ended, the security chief ordered the guards to tie five prisoners’ hands behind their backs until their elbows almost touched. They were all blindfolded. Then they were led to the north behind the prison, while the remaining prisoners were allowed to go back to their cells. The security chief closed the door and warned, ‘If anyone causes chaos upon hearing gunshots, they will be killed.’ A moment later I heard him counting: ‘One! Two! Three!’ followed by the sound of several gunshots.” Nevertheless, Sam Ol added that he did not hear the cry of the prisoners, but “when I looked to the front, I could recognize some clothes belonging to the prisoners hung on the fence.” [Source: Vannak Huy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Survivors/18\/]

What he saw was three prisoners being executed using the sharp edge of a palm tree branch. It was “carried out before our very eyes three months after I first arrived. A group of Khmer Rouge soldiers brought these prisoners from Prek Rey to Prek Kralanh prison to be slaughtered for attempted escape.” Sam Ol said, “Punishing prisoners for breaking rules was a way to warn others against repeating the same crime.” He stated: “I’ll never forget the punishment imposed on me by the Khmer Rouge. I wonder how these people, who spoke the same language as us, could kill their own race? During each Phchum season, I’ve always thought about what happened 25 years ago in which ‘I shed tears in prison.’”

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “ Days later, Sim was taken out to killed, but before that the militiamen allowed him to wear new clothing and prepared a meal for him to eat with his wife, who was a chief of the women’s unit in Chikrek (she, too, was in detention). After that, the militiamen took him along with 100 other prisoners. Later, his wife was beaten as punishment by the prison guard. Her face, arms and legs were so swollen she could hardly walk until the day they killed her. [Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

“Some prisoners died in their bad-smelling cells, and others committed suicide by biting off their tongues, suffocating themselves, plunging into deep wells, and cutting their veins. Not a single day had passed without prisoners committing suicide. Every evening, I had to go from cell to cell to ask whether there was dead person inside and how many had killed themselves. The corpses were not wrapped; their wrists and ankles were tied to a pole to be carried away. The bodies were buried in Thoama Yuth pagoda or an area to the west of the pagoda. We dug holes that could hold 5 to 10 corpses. After we buried the bodies, we asked the guard for permission to pick water convolvulus and bring it home for making soup. ==

Released from a Khmer Rouge Prison

The survivor Sum Rithy reported: “ Having been in prison for almost 2 years, 28 prisoners and I were released and sent to Memai Bridge, about 55 kilometers from Siem Reap province. Before leaving, the prison chief had advised me to try my best to fulfill Angkar’s assignments so that I did not return to prison. Moreover, he gave us 12 pigs. As the truck drove out of the detention center, I began to feel as if I had come back to life again. A week after I started working at the bridge, I heard that my wife, daughter and mother-in-law had been moved and were living about 4 kilometers away. [Source: Sum Rithy, Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org/Archives/Protographs/Sum_Rithy ==]

“On January 7, 1979, a Vietnamese tank came and we began walking. It took us five days to reach Siem Reap. Then I left for my home village in Battambang in order to see my family. When I arrived, my mother rushed to hug me and burst into tears. Only two of my siblings were alive. My father was killed by the Khmer Rouge. My elder brothers Da and Tha died of hunger. My youngest brother Nareth had his throat cut by the Khmer Rouge. When the first cut did not kill him, he struggled to crawl out of the grave. But the Khmer Rouge saw him and cut him again until he died. My sister-in-law became a widow with five children after the Khmer Rouge murdered her husband. They poured gasoline over my sister-in-law Ton and set her on fire, leaving her three children orphans....I managed to survive because I was skilled at repairing motorbikes.

Torture in Khmer Rouge Prisons

Osman Ysa of the Documentation Center of Cambodia wrote: “El Him, currently living in Cham Kraom Village, Prek Thmei Sub-district, Koh Thom District, Kandal Province, became deaf as a consequence of a blow from a bamboo stick wielded by a Khmer Rouge interrogator at Office 18. He recalled: “The interrogator made me admit my traitorous activities. I replied I had done nothing. Then they took a bamboo stick to beat me to the point that I became unconsciousness. Once I woke up, I could not hear. Then they stopped asking me and asked me to work as office guard there. Since then, I have been able to hear nothing.” [Source: Prak Khan and interrogation at S-21, Documentation Center of Cambodia by Osman Ysa <>]

“Van Nathh, a former inmate of S-21 who survived due to his expertise as an artist, recounted: “I was questioned in a prison in Region 4 before being brought to Tuol Sleng. I did nothing treasonable. So I had nothing to admit. Then they tortured me with electricity. The first time I was sitting in a chair, but later I fell out of the chair and went unconscious. When I regained consciousness, they threw water on my face so that they could go on with their interrogation.” When asked “Do you think all Khmer Rouge interrogators are vicious?”, Van Nathh replied: “It’s hard to say. We don’t know their characteristics. But most of them were young and had no education.” Van Nath went on to say, “I saw prisoners lying dead in the room where I was being kept at Tuol Sleng and young people were kicking the heads of the corpses frivolously for fun.” Sok Ra and Neou Kantha, interrogators at S-21 like Prak Khan (later arrested), recalled their unexpected immoral acts against female inmates. <>

During his time at Tuol Sleng, survivor Chum Mey said he was repeatedly tortured on suspicion of espionage. "While I was walking inside (after arriving) I said (to a guard), 'Brother, please look after my family.' Then the person kicked me to the ground," Chum Mey said, adding the man swore at him and told him he would be "smashed". Chum Mey told judges he was photographed, stripped, handcuffed and yanked by his earlobes to face interrogators. "They asked me to tell them the truth -- how many of us joined the KGB and CIA," Chum Mey said. "I'm still longing to know the reason why I was accused of being CIA and KGB because I knew nothing about them." [Source: Patrick Falby, AFP, June 30, 2009]

According to AFP he described how interrogators beat him for 12 days and nights as he pleaded for his life. He shuddered in pain after they pulled out his toenails, he said, and heard "some sort of sound" after they subjected him to electric shocks. The agony finally ended when he falsely confessed to being a CIA and KGB agent, Chum Mey said, and his life was then spared because he was put to use repairing sewing machines and a water pump.

Torture and Hardships at a Siem Reap Khmer Rouge Prison

1) On the first day’s night, I and the other friends who lived at Khnat Village, Siem Reap Sub-district, Siem Reap district, Siem Reap province, were arrested, bounded, hit and shackled. I lost conscious and the others were bleeding. Then they pushed us into the truck and drove to the Thom prison (Siem Reap). The first shackled person in the photo was me, and the rest was my friends at Khnat village. (I was arrested in the cold season.) (Hat and jar were used for deposing human waste) Security guard holding an axe called Daung Cadre (still alive) and security guard holding the keys named Sam (Teap)

2) In 1977, Khmer Rouge military arrested innocent people from Puok village. They were bound and shackled, then drove to Thom Prison at Siem Reap by cars and tractors. Those victims consisted of both old and young people.

3) Prisoner at Thom prison (Siem Reap province): They seriously tortured me. When I was about to take the porridge container from the cooker, the prison guard called Sam pushed the porridge container from behind and hit me. After that my body was full of the porridge. It was hurt just as I was burned. I was nearly died at that time. Later on, there were a lot of scar on my head and over my body. The security guard called Sam E (Veng)

4) Prisoner at Thom Prison: I was tortured because of picking up 10 jackfruit seed without asking permission. At that time, the prison guard took me far away from Thoamayuth pagoda and ordered me to kneel. Then they took a square wooden stick and hit me on my waist. It was so painful that made me cry. The security guard called Vann.

5) Prisoner at Thom prison: The Khmer Rouge Communist accused this woman of escaping from the prison. She then were seriously tortured by using an axe to cut her lip into two parts which caused a continue bleeding. The following morning, they executed her. The security guard was killing the victim lady. His name is Mon.

6) Prisoner at Thom Prison (Siem Reap province): This was the photo of a lady who was brutally killed by a stick. She died miserably in the Thom Prison (Siem Reap province), because of two bananas. The security guard was killing the female victim. He called Chhoan.

7) Prisoners at Thom Prison: When the prison guard escorted prisoners back to the prison after coming from the interrogation room, those prisoners whose hands were shackled decided to commit suicide by jumping into a well, because they were hopeless of seeing only misery, hardship, torture, starvation, and death. The security guards called Ny and Roeum.

8) Prisoner at Thom prison: I was carrying the corpses one another to bury. These were shackled skinny prisoners who were starved to death in the prison. They died with open eyes. The prison guard called Sam (Teap) ordered the prisoners to bury the corpse which died of starvation.

9) At Thom Prison in Siem Reap province, when returning from interrogation room, the Khmer Rouge cadre changed new cloth for Sim, Chy Kreng district chief. They prepared a delicious meal for Sim before he was executed. At the same time, Sim’s wife was also arrested and put into the prison in order to let her seeing Sim for the last time. After having meal together with his wife, Sim was escorted away to the killing field. In that evening, the prisoners did not go to work as normal.

10) This was the iron hat of Lon Nol military which the Khmer Rouge used as meal plate for prisoners at Thom prison in Siem Reap. The watery porridge was mixed with banana trunk, Saomao Prey’s leave, and the other tree leaves, the rice in the porridge contained only two spoons. This was the jar used for storing the porridge. The meal ration for each person was only one cup of porridge and a ladle of soup. There was no taste at all. (They used the fragment of rice to cook the porridge)

11) Thom prison in Siem Reap province. The prison guard appointed me to deliver the porridge every morning and evening to the prisoners whose legs were shackled in line. The watery porridge contained only banana trunk and other kinds of tree leaves. (They used rice fragment to cook the porridge.)

12) On the left was the Thom Prison’s chief in Siem Reap named Khon. The second was me and the third was a boy who was accused of secretly escaping from the prison and caught back. At that time, the prison’s chief ordered me tohit this boy but I didn't hit him so hard. As a result, the prison’s chief ordered me to kneel down and hit my waist by a square of wooden stick and shouted at me that this was the way you hit him. Later on, the boy was killed.

13) After Sim, Chi Kreng district chief, was executed, his family members were also imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge. This is the picture of Sim's wife after returning from interrogating. She could not walk because of her knee, foot and arm were swollen. This was the brutal activity as she was questioning. The following day, the Khmer Rouge took her and other prisoners to execute.

14) At Thom Prison: after returning from work, the prisoners brought Pti (kind of leaves), Trakuon (water plant), Pralit (water plant), Sleuk Bass, Sao Mao Prey and chili leaves, with snails, crabs, frogs, fish, lizards, grasshoppers, mice and so on to cook. Then, the prison guard hit and kicked those prisoners while other boilers were killed.

15) The savage attack of the Khmer Rouge on this boy was, they used one kilogram of hammer to hit on his knees, because he was accused of running away from the prison. The following day, he was killed. (Before he died, how suffer he was?)

16) The prisoners were tortured, forced, and threatened to work for them inhumanly. They were also forced to pull thefertilizer cart from the morning to the late evening, but they were allowed to eat only watery porridge. Everyone was so hungry that almost fell down. Finally, they still executed those prisoners. There was no value on Khmer people’s life. They were forced to work but executed as the result. The Khmer Rouge killed their own people.

17) I was kneeling down for my punishment; because I took a small amount of the remaining porridge from other prisoners. Immediately, the inside prison guard, named Sam aka Veng ordered me tokneel down and bend the head down. At that time, I was totally hopeless (by knowing that I must be died). Sam took a stick used for twirling the porridge to hit on my neck. Suddenly I could not see anything. I almost died at that time. Security guard called Sam aka Veng was hitting a prisoner called Rith.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Documentation Center of Cambodia, d.dccam.org, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourism of Cambodia, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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