Kraing Ta Chan Security Centre
|Democratic Kampuchea Zone|
|Democratic Kampuchea District|
|Democratic Kampuchea Sector|
|Current Day District|
|Current Day Province|
From the Case 002 Closing Order:
[Disclaimer: The content in Closing Orders are allegations, which need to be proven through adversarial hearings. As such, the allegations below can not be treated as facts unless the have been established through a final judgment]
Location and Establishment
489. Kraing Ta Chan was located in Kus Subdistrict, Tram Kok District, Takeo Province. Applying the CPK’s system of identifying administrative boundaries, it was located in District 105, Sector 13, Southwest Zone. The former Chairman of Kus Subdistrict (and former Chairman of Kraing Ta Chan), [REDACTED], recalls that Kraing Ta Chan was originally a CPK meeting site. In mid-1973 it was converted by the Sector Committee into a detention office under the control of the District 105 committee. It was operational for the duration of the CPK regime. There is some discrepancy between witnesses as to the exact appearance of the site. However, they generally agree that after the district took control, it evolved into a fenced-in compound containing several wooden buildings used for prisoner incarceration, cadre accommodation, interrogation, and dining.
Structure and Personnel
490. Witnesses and District 105 documents demonstrate that the chain of command implemented by the CPK nationwide operated in Sector 13 even prior to April 1975. The subdistricts reported to the District Committee, which reported to the Sector Committee, which in turn reported to the zone. If the tier above gave an order, ordinarily the tiers below had to obey. If lower tier cadres acted contrary to orders from above or did not seek their consent to a course of action, they were arrested and killed. However, it appears that in special cases a level could be circumvented. For example, if the sector sent a summons directly to the subdistrict, then the subdistrict could respond without having to go through the district. Orders travelled down the ranks, from the centre to the subdistrict, through a variety of means.
491. Meetings were the most common method of conveying orders and receiving reports, as paper was scarce. One witness who was based at the ‘Southwest Zone Commerce’ building in Phnom Penh recalls seeing many senior Southwest Zone leaders including the
Zone Secretary, Ta Mok, and the Sector 13 Secretary, Ta Soam, attending meetings with Angkar in Phnom Penh. Once every three to six months, the zone would meet with the sector committee. Following these meetings, the sector would meet with the district and subdistrict to convey the work plan and to give instructions on how the people under their authority should be controlled and educated. The situation both within and outside the country was also discussed. Former District Youth Chairman, [REDACTED], remembers attending such meetings at which the Sector Secretary Ta Saom would read out documents containing instructions from 870 (a code number which [REDACTED] understood to mean the office at the Centre) including Revolutionary Youth and Revolutionary Flag. He says these meetings would take place two to three times a month, not including special circumstances when 870 would issue a circular requiring everyone to meet at the sector office. The sector invited the chairmen of the districts and subdistricts to these meetings, who would in turn disseminate instructions to their units.
492. Former Secretary of District 105, [REDACTED], recalls being present at a Sector Committee meeting at which Ta Soam reported to Ta Mok on matters relating to Kraing Ta Chan. After the meeting had ended, Ta Mok and Ta Soam discussed the fate of a group of 60 people living in Tram Kok District who had been implicated in confessions. Ta Mok ordered the district secretary to monitor and examine these people. [REDACTED] also recalls attending several Party anniversary meetings presided over by Ta Mok. These meetings were initially held at secret sites, but later moved to the sector headquarters. The meetings were attended by senior members of the zone to discuss politics and the revolution. Ta Mok lectured on how to recognise CIA and KGB agents and their activities. [REDACTED] understood from Ta Mok that these enemies were to be identified and smashed. [REDACTED] also remembers attending a Sector level meeting presided over by Ta Soam. He states that, in relation to politics, Ta Soam told those present to observe if there were hidden enemies burrowing from inside. He ordered them to report such cases to the upper echelon, and said that such observations could only be carried out by the cooperatives.
493. The chairman of Kraing Ta Chan would usually report and send confessions to the district committee, which would in turn send them to the sector. However, if the matter only concerned the Sector, he would report to the sector committee directly. At the end of every month, the district secretary would send a written report on its activities to the sector. [REDACTED] recalls, and District 105 documents from July and November 1977 show, that the Chairman of Kraing Ta Chan would also make a monthly report to the
District. The report would include the total prisoner intake, numbers of prisoner deaths due to illness and executions, total population, economic expenditure, and food production.
494. The precise composition of each committee changed over time as individuals were relocated, arrested or passed away. However, it appears that the following individuals were secretaries of District 105 at different times: [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and Kit. The secretaries of Sector 13 included Ta Soam and Prak. The Southwest Zone Secretary was Ta Mok.
495. Some witnesses, including [REDACTED], describe the witness [REDACTED] as the first Chairman of Kraing Ta Chan. However, [REDACTED] denies ever formally holding this position, and states that he merely assisted at Kraing Ta Chan in his capacity as Chairman of Kus Subdistrict. In any event, by April 1975 [REDACTED] had been relocated, and his deputy, [REDACTED], had become chairman with twelve soldiers working beneath him. [REDACTED] was chairman at least until September 1978. It appears that [REDACTED], and later, [REDACTED] reported directly to [REDACTED], who was a member of the district committee and likely tasked with district security.
496. It appears that senior cadres visited Kraing Ta Chan. Though some evidence suggests that Ta Mok inspected the prisoners on several occasions, former District 105 Youth Chairman, [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [REDACTED] either dispute or do not recall this. However, none of these three witnesses were present at Kraing Ta Chan during the whole of the relevant time. Further, one witness believes he saw Nuon Chea visit Kraing Ta Chan and talk to [REDACTED]. However, [REDACTED] denies this event ever took place. Witnesses state that successive district chairmen including [REDACTED], Kit, and [REDACTED], would regularly visit Kraing Ta Chan.
Arrest and Detention
497. [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and various District 105 documents reveal the way in which the process of arrest, imprisonment, and execution or release operated in Sector 13. First, the subdistrict would report its concerns about various civilians and CPK cadres to the district. For example, a report from Nheng Nhang subdistrict to the district sets out the biography of an enemy listing various alleged offences. A return note on the bottom of the document from the district secretary to the subdistrict instructs that he is to be arrested. Once arrested, individuals were sent to the district. The district would then consult with the district secretary before sending those concerned to Kraing Ta Chan accompanied by a report. For example, a report from Trapeang Thom Tboung commune addressed to the Kraing Ta Chan Chairman sets out the offences of three people who the Party had decided to arrest and send to Kraing Ta Chan. At the same time, a report would be sent to the sector committee. These reports were the basis for detainee interrogation. Later, the chairman of Kraing Ta Chan would send the prisoners’ confessions to the district secretary who would forward them to the sector committee. The sector secretary would then advise the district committee of which individuals were to be killed and those who were to be released. The names of these individuals would be sent to Kraing Ta Chan for implementation. Therefore, it appears that the sector decided upon the fate of those held at Kraing Ta Chan based almost exclusively on confessions and other information produced by the district office. The district, for its part, relied on information provided to it by the subdistrict, including allegations made by subdistrict militia and denunciations coming from members of the population.
498. A Tram Kok District resident recalls that before evacuees from Phnom Penh arrived in the area, the secretaries of the districts and subdistricts attended a meeting at which they were advised that there would be a purge of the evacuees. Anyone who had been a soldier holding the rank of Corporal Sergeant or above in the Khmer Republic regime, and anyone from the Khmer Republic administration who had been a first deputy chief or higher, would be purged. This is confirmed by three witnesses, including the former district youth chairman who recalls that when new people arrived at Tram Kok they were made to write biographies. He also states that anyone who admitted to being a soldier would subsequently disappear. One witness recalls arriving in Tram Kok in April 1975 and being ordered to write his biography. He was told specifically to speak the truth about whether he was a soldier or government official. A committee member of a sub-distrct in Tram Kok recalls the commune secretary being ordered to gather together all the evacuees who held the rank of Second Lieutenant or higher. Once assembled, the upper echelon would send a truck to take them away. These people disappeared forever. The Kraing Ta Chan prisoner lists and the increase in the number of prisoners at Kraing Ta Chan after April 1975 suggests many of those who disappeared were sent to Kraing Ta Chan. Several reports from the subdistrict to the district in 1977 reveal that the purge of former Khmer Republic soldiers and officials continued after 1975.
499. Many of those who were sent to Kraing Ta Chan were arrested by subdistrict militia. A former guard recalls that the subdistrict militia would bring people to Kraing Ta Chan day and night, sometimes as many as ten tied together. Another guard states that when prisoners arrived, he saw them tied together with their hands and biceps restrained. The people who had escorted the prisoners to Kraing Ta Chan were not permitted to enter the compound.
500. Men, women, and children were all detained at Kraing Ta Chan, including whole families. Eight witnesses were former detainees. Witnesses remember that most of the detainees were new people originating from Phnom Penh. However, “base people”, former Khmer Republic soldiers, CPK cadre, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham also contributed to the population. With regard to the Chams, witnesses who lived in Tram Kok District said that Chams were treated like everyone else. On the other hand, Vietnamese who lived in the area were initially sent back to Vietnam but those who remained were later arrested and executed, probably at Kraing Ta Chan. It is unclear how many prisoners were detained at Kraing Ta Chan between April 1975 and January 1979. The capacity of the prison is also unknown. However, estimates can be made from various sources. A report from Kraing Ta Chan to the district committee for the month of July 1977 states that 18 new prisoners arrived that month, making a total of 81 detainees. Of these detainees, two died of disease and 39 were executed, leaving a total prisoner population of 40. A similar report for the month of November 1977 puts the total prisoner population at 85. Another report from [REDACTED] to the district committee advises that up until the date of the report [date unknown], 15,000 detainees had been executed.
501. The evidence suggests that prisoners were divided into two categories: serious and light offenders. However, a former guard states that there was no such distinction. Everyone was shackled day and night unless they were put to work. When prisoners wanted to relieve themselves they would use a coconut shell which would be passed from person to person to the end of the row. If someone spilled faeces or urine, they would be beaten with a bamboo club. In each detention house there were two rows of people, approximately 20 to 25 per row. Men, women and children were all detained in the same room in different rows. Any child over ten years of age was shackled. Small children were placed on the belly of their mothers. Prisoners were not permitted to move about freely.
502. Between one and three prisoners died every day in each building. Reasons included starvation, disease, vermin or being beaten. A former guard attests that there was no medical facility at Kraing Ta Chan and that sick prisoners were simply left to die. Several District 105 documents record prisoners dying of illness.
503. Some prisoners recall being forced to work inside the prison compound performing a variety of labour. Those who worked were given more food than those who remained shackled in the detention buildings. Those who worked on the rice fields were not shackled, but were under guard. Some of those who worked outside returned at night to be shackled in the main detention buildings.
504. Two witnesses recall the rape of detainees by cadres at Kraing Ta Chan. A former detainee states that a particular guard often raped and killed prisoners. Sometimes this witness would find the victims naked with ammunition inserted into their genitals. A former guard denies there were ever any cases of rape at Kraing Ta Chan, saying that if there had been, both the victim and the perpetrator would have been killed for committing immoral conduct. The former district youth chairman states he was ordered by the zone or sector to investigate the alleged rape of a woman by CPK cadres at the site.
505. Six witnesses were released from Kraing Ta Chan during its operation. One states that after 29 days of detention, he was personally released by Ta Mok. Two former prison guards state that very few people were ever released.
506. Seven former detainees recall being interrogated at Kraing Ta Chan. Some were interrogated within hours of arriving at the site. Interrogations were conducted every day. Prisoners were accused of being enemies and were asked to identify their leaders. One former detainee recalls being asked where he was from, whether he was American or Yuon CIA and which rank he held during the Lon Nol era. Another was accused of sexual immorality. Others remembered being asked why there was not enough food in the cooperatives, or about simple things such as conflicts while driving carts. At one point, it appears that people were being questioned about their links to Prum San, leader of the Front in the forest. During the interrogation, a handwritten record of the prisoners’ confessions would be taken and later typed up.
507. Detainees were sometimes seriously mistreated during interrogation. The CPK used the language “hot” and “cold” to describe the different methods employed when questioning a prisoner. Hot meant beating and other physical methods whilst cold meant pleading, trickery, ruses and coaxing. Cadre learned these techniques from the sector and district. District 105 documents show this language being used by the subdistrict when reporting to the Party about people they had interrogated. Similarly, Kit, in a letter to [REDACTED] regarding prisoners who had newly arrived, ordered him to: “interrogate harshly and thoroughly”.
508. Of those former detainees who recall being interrogated at Kraing Ta Chan, two claim they were seriously mistreated during their interrogation. Others state that although they were interrogated, they were never beaten. Former Kraing Ta Chan prisoners and guards witnessed a variety of methods being used to mistreat prisoners during interrogation, including using plastic bags to suffocate, beatings with whips and clubs, the use of pincers to pull noses and earlobes, dousing with acid, pouring water into victims, hanging from the feet, and hanging using ropes tied around the neck. Two former detainees recall seeing prisoners die from injuries suffered during interrogation. Furthermore, another former detainee recalls that he would have to dispose of the bodies of those who had died from injuries sustained during interrogation, insufficient food, and illness.
509. A former detainee remembers being interrogated for three days after he arrived at Kraing Ta Chan. He said “During those interrogations they asked us who the traitor leaders were, and when we said that we did not know, we did not know, they beat our thighs and backbones at the shoulders with a rattan stick, and they tied our arms behind us to a small wooden post. Then when we said we did not know, we did not know, they used a plastic cloth and tightly wrapped our heads, faces and ears. That made me unable to breathe and I passed out. Next they took off the plastic cloth and once again [interrogated] looking for the leaders. Then they charged that if no one is your leader, then you must be the leader yourself. They said they would keep me for three more days and then they might interrogate again”. A number of former detainees and cadres remember hearing screams coming from the interrogation room.
Disappearances and Executions
510. Orders to kill were sent from the sector secretary to the district secretary who would inform the chairman of Kraing Ta Chan. These orders were handwritten on confessions which had originally been sent from Kraing Ta Chan to the district secretary.
511. Some witnesses say that prisoners were taken away during the night in trucks, in effect disappearing. Guards told them that they were being returned to the cooperatives. Their fate was hidden from others by the playing of a loudspeaker that drowned out their screams. One former prisoner was told that he could not reveal that people were being executed to the other prisoners.
512. Many of the witnesses interviewed by investigators remember either witnessing executions carried out at Kraing Ta Chan, or seeing the bodies of the victims. Executions were carried out in many different locations in and around Kraing Ta Chan, including in the detention buildings, in the interrogation room, and at the side of graves that victims had been forced to dig moments before their execution. One witness recalls that there were so many bodies buried in the region of the prison that he would sometimes uncover bodies while planting coconut trees.
513. Three witnesses give detailed accounts of seeing executions being carried out. Prisoners were blindfolded and then hit at the base of the neck with a blunt weapon such as a cart axel or digging hoe. When they fell over, a sword was used to cut their throat. Young children were killed by having their heads bashed against the trunk of a tree.
514. Victims’ bodies were buried in and around the Kraing Ta Chan compound. Either those who were about to be executed dug their own pits, or other prisoners were ordered to dig them. One former prisoner was made to dig one to two 3m long x 1.5m deep pits per day. Each pit would hold between 30 and 60 bodies. In 1979, one witness, a subdistrict chairman, took part in the exhumation of graves in the area. He stated that eight pits were exhumed out of which 10,045 skulls were recovered. He recalls that many other pits were left untouched. Another witness says that approximately 17,000 skulls were counted. A DK-era report from Kraing Ta Chan’s chairman to the district notes that until that date [unknown], they had smashed 15,000 enemies. This suggests that the total number of those killed at Kraing Ta Chan was greater than 15,000.