International

Crime Scenes of the Khmer

A table of estimated death tolls for the crime scenes identified in Case 004 of the Khmer Rouge war crimes trial. See the full story here: “Extraordinary Injustice.”
Aom An, also known as Ta or "Grandfather" An, on August 18, 2011 in Battambang province. | Credit: DOUGLAS GILLISON
Aom An, also known as Ta or "Grandfather" An, on August 18, 2011 in Battambang province. | Credit: DOUGLAS GILLISON

Rough prosecution estimates say that at the following locations between a quarter of a million and 300,000 people were killed, the majority of whom died while under the authority of Ta An, Ta Tith, and Im Chaem. The table below is derived from prosecutors' loosely estimated death tolls for the crime scenes identified in Case 004.

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Low End High End
CENTRAL ZONE
Kampong Cham province
Wat Au Trakuon 32,690 32,690 Also part of Case 002
Wat Batheay 8,000 10,000
Met Sop (Kor) 2,300 2,300 The international prosecutors write that there “were over 2,300 victims.”
Wat Phnom Pros 10,000 10,000
Kok Pring 1,000 1,000
Chamkar Svay Chanty 5,000 7,000
Anlong Chrey Work Site - -
Total 58,990 62,990
Kampong Thom province
Wat Srange 15,000 36,000
Tuol Ta Phlong 40,000 40,000 The international prosecutors write that there were “at least” 40,000 victims.
Wat Kandal 2,000 7,000
Wat Baray Chan Dek 15,000 20,000
Total 72,000 103,000
Total Central Zone 130,990 165,990
NORTHWEST ZONE
Battambang province
Wat Kirirum 15,000 15,000 Also part of Case 002
Banteay O Ta Krey 1,500 1,500
Banteay Treng 800 1,000
Wat Thoamayutt 1,000 1,000
Wat Kandal - - The international prosecutors write: “At present there is no available estimate of the total number of people killed at this security center but according to one survivor, prisoners were killed almost every day and the corpses were taken away 'like pigs, with their hands and feet tied to a bamboo stick.'”
Wat Samdech 5,000 6,000
Wat Po Laingka 5,000 7,500
Total 28,300 32,000
Banteay Meanchey province
Wat Banteay Neang 3,500 5,000
La-Ang Phnom Kuoy Yum 500 500
Wat Chamkar Khnol 9,000 9,000 The international prosecutors write: “More than 9,000 skulls were discovered at this site and put in a memorial at Wat Sopheak Mongkol.”
Phnom Trayoung 40,000 40,000  Allegedly controlled by Im Chaem
Phum Chakrey 6,000 6,000 Allegedly controlled by Im Chaem
Wat Preah Net Preah / Chamkar Ta Ling 700 700  Allegedly controlled by Im Chaem
Trapaing Thma Dam (IC) - - Also part of Case 002; Im Chaem allegedly responsible
Spean Spreng & Prey Rorneam (IC) - -  Allegedly controlled by Im Chaem
Total 59,700 61,200
Pursat province
Prison No. 8 4,000 10,000
Tuol Purchrey 10,000 10,000 Also part of Case 002
Total 14,000 20,000
Total Northwest Zone 102,000 113,200
SOUTHWEST ZONE
Takeo province
Wat Pratheat 16,000 16,000
Total 16,000 16,000
Total Southwest Zone 16,000 16,000
Total Case 004 248,990 295,190

Should these crime scenes ever be investigated, some of these numbers could vary significantly. On the whole, however, they are a reliable indication of the magnitude of the killing. According to a confidential introductory submission, the Case 004 estimates were derived from a number of sources, such as researchers' efforts to map sites where executions took place, witness accounts, and accounts of early excavations.

At the very least, Case 004 gives strong reason to believe that horrific crimes occurred involving the victimization of many hundreds of thousands.

skull room

According to UN prosecutors, “Wat Batheay Security Center was located in Batheay village and commune, Batheay district, Kampong Cham province (part of Sector 41 and the Central Zone). An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were killed at this Center... The detainees at the Center were tortured, beaten with sticks and screamed with pain. They were served just one meal a day that consisted of a single spoon of rice, and some died of starvation and disease. The chief of the prison was called Comrade Khim and the chief of the district was named Pheum. District Chief Pheum came from the Southwest Zone in early 1977. A number of surviving prisoners and security cadre have been identified.”

blue lock

According to UN prosecutors, “More than 9,000 skulls were discovered at this site and put in a memorial at Wat Sopheak Mongkol. Many of the victims were Vietnamese settlers. Executions were particularly intense at the end of 1978, when '5 or 6 trucks full of people' would sometimes arrive. One survivor witnessed 'thousands' of people 'tied, shackled and carried away in 20 big trucks' one night. The trucks returned later that evening 'carrying only the people's clothes.'”

rice field

Soeung Lim, a layman at a pagoda in Prey Chhor district, Kampong Cham province, photographed by his rice field near Met Sop Security Center, which prosecutors say was “the sector-level security office for Sector 41... In total, over 2,300 victims are believed to have been killed at this Security Center and buried at four nearby execution sites.” Lim told me, “They killed the children like they killed a frog. They killed like a beast, animals.” An elder brother who was a cattle driver had his cattle stolen and he “was killed a week before the end of the regime.” When asked about government opposition to the prosecution of Ta An, he said, “I do not know how to say if the government do not want to try them.... If we do not try him, punish him, it is regrettable, regrettable, as people over the country that could know that he is responsible for killing people.”

A demographic study produced for the court indicates that up to half of all of the victims of the Khmer Rouge, or 1.3 million people, may have been executed outright rather than dying of starvation, exhaustion, or disease during the three years, eight months, and 20 days that the regime existed. That means that as many as one in every eight Cambodians was executed during the Khmer regime.

If so, the estimated death tolls in Case 004 alone could account for 30 percent of all Khmer Rouge executions, with the bulk occurring in a span of just two years.

During the entire Khmer reign from 1975 to 1979, prosecutors say, there may have been up to 960,000 deaths in the two zones allegedly controlled by the suspects in Case 004. But most of these crime scenes have been excluded from the court's current trial — which will almost certainly be its last.

This article was reported in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, with support from The Puffin Foundation.

About the reporter

Douglas Gillison

Douglas Gillison

Douglas Gillison is the economics editor at Agence-France Presse.