|Our Really Big Adventure|
The Killing Fields
| As soon as the Khmer
Rouge took control of Cambodias capital city, Phnom Penh, they started
a program of mass evacuations. Within 3 days the city streets were cleared
and the entire population, including the hospitals' sick and dying, were
making their way into the countryside. All told 2 million Cambodians were
forced to give up everything, travelling to far distant provinces to play
their part in the creation of an agrarian utopia. In a country that only
grew 30% of what it consumed the consequences were obvious - mass starvation.
A new age had fallen upon Cambodia. As one Cambodian put it Where there were streets without people, houses without people and men fought over a grain of rice stuck to the tail of a dog. Whether or not these initial actions of the Khmer Rouge leadership were made out of ignorance or misjudgement, their continued and prolific acts of barbarism proves their total lack of respect for the individual, or any number of individuals, in pursuit of their ideals.
An old school house in Phnom Penh stands as a testament to the wanton cruelty and inhumanity of the Khmer Rouge. It was in this French colonial school, situated in the heart of an empty city, that 20,000 political prisoners were detained, questioned, tortured and raped. Security Office 21, or S21, was just one of many similar interrogation centres run by the increasingly paranoid Khmer Rouge leadership. Here confessions and accusations were extracted under such duress that in no way could they be considered valid. Children would falsely betray their parents, lovers their partners and low ranking political prisoners senior party members - anything for the torture to be over. For most, it ended at the notorious killing fields only 7 people of the 20,000 survived.
The regime of S21 was harsh beyond belief. Amongst the cruellest of guards were the 12-16 year old warders. Without a strongly ingrained morality and given positions of total power over their captives, their actions became bestial. Prisoners were regularly questioned and tortured with a variety of techniques, from fingernails being pulled out to electrification and suffocation. Important political prisoners were kept in their own 2 1/2 foot by 6 foot cell, feet shackled to an 2 foot iron bar. As horrible as this sounds it was infinitely preferable to the treatment of the bulk of S21s residents. They were kept 60 to room, that in a different time taught classes of 25. Here there were just two iron bars, each the length of the room. 30 people would be shackled alternatively to each bar, feet touching feet. No bedding, sound or movement was allowed.
The security regulations, still displayed at S21, clearly show how severe conditions were.
The Security Regulations
After the prisoner confessed and the proper paper work had been filled out and signed I would put the prisoner in a cell and shackle their hands and feet. When it was time to take them I would stand outside their cell and shout their name. They would answer. Id then unlock the door and their shackles. If they shouted or screamed as I walked them down the stairs I hit them with a stick. Id try and get them into the back of the truck but they would often resist and shout.
No, you are going to kill me
I would hit them and tell them
No I am not going to kill you
When the truck was full it would be driven to the killing fields. Here my job was to take down everyones details - to make sure that proper records were kept. Id ask them their names again and they would answer. Sometimes they were made to dig pits and then to kneel down beside them. If they didnt we hit them. Then they were either shot in the back of the head or hit with iron bar at the base of the skull.
One day I had brought 5 prisoners there and had taken all their details, as was my job. Comrade Dutch (the prison governor) was there and when I walked away he called me back.
- Are you afraid?
- No I am not afraid Comrade Dutch
- Are you afraid to take a life
- No I am not afraid Comrade Dutch
He gave me an iron bar and I hit each of them on the back of the head. I hit hard and they fell, one by one, into the pit. Normally I just took down their details. I only ever killed 5 people, that is all, only the once
Narration is from memory inaccuracies exist