Cambodia killer admits burning westerners

Kaing Guek Eav. Source: Wikimedia

The first member of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge to be jailed for the atrocities of the 1970s has admitted murdering four foreigners and burning their bodies with a pile of tyres.

Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as “Duch”, is testifying at an international tribunal’s long-running second case against the deputies of deceased Khmer Rouge chief Pol Pot, who presided over the slaughter of more than 1.8 million Cambodians.

Duch said “Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea instructed him to kill four westerners, including two US citizens, at a school that was turned into a torture chamber, where more than 14,000 people were murdered.

“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 told the tribunal.

“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,” Duch said.

He said they were killed after entering Cambodia’s territorial waters. “They had to be burnt to ashes so there is no evidence that foreigners were smashed by us.”

Most victims died of starvation, torture or disease in labour camps or were beaten to death during mass executions.

Nuon Chea and former head of state Khieu Samphan were on trial at the UN-backed court for war crimes and genocide. In 2014 the men in their 80s were sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

Two of their co-defendants, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith, are dead while Pol Pot died in 1998.

Duch, 73, who was jailed in 2010 for life for crimes against humanity, said again that he was following Nuon Chea’s orders to execute the foreigners in late 1978, who included Americans Michael Scott Deeds and Christopher Edward DeLance.

“No form of punishment on Earth would be fair for what they did to the four foreigners and millions of Cambodians and their family members,” argued Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Centre of Cambodia.

The centre lists 79 foreigners among those killed at the Tuol Sleng torture block in Phnom Penh, most of them Vietnamese and Thai but also four Americans, three French, two Australians, one Briton and one New Zealander.

Others victims apparently sailed into Cambodian waters while boating on the Gulf of Thailand.