Tribunal Hears of Secret Medical Experiments

A former radio operator testifying for a second day at the Khmer Rouge tribunal spoke of secretly witnessing medical experiments on female prisoners and of soldiers being “taken out” during internal purges.

Sem Om, now in his 60s, told the court on Wednesday that he was hit by a shell fragment while fighting Vietnamese forces after being sent to the East Zone in 1977. He was sent to a pagoda hospital to recover from a resulting head injury, he said.

A general view of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) building is seen on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in August.
A general view of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) building is seen on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in August.

It was there, in what is now Tbong Khmum province, that he peered through a crack in a hospital wall one night and saw medical staff carrying out experiments on the wives of arrested cadre, he said.

“At night time, when it was quiet…they would be used for medical experiments in that hospital,” Mr. Om said. “They cut open their bodies, they inject liquid into them and, later on, they died.”

The hospital director, whom he referred to as Brother Rem, informed him that the women—some of them pregnant—were the wives of suspected traitors, the witness said.

Mr. Om also told of “two beautiful children” who accompanied the women to the hospital, and of learning that Brother Rem intended to spare their lives and raise them.

But later, he said, the hospital director changed his mind and ordered his subordinates to “smash” them against a car tire.

Mr. Om was testifying as part of hearings related to internal purges in the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.

Earlier in the day, he described seeing arrested East Zone soldiers being transported to a division office where they were tied up and “taken out” by a special unit assigned to orchestrate purges.

“There were guards who pointed guns at them, while others were busy tying up those soldiers and then they were taken out,” he said.

“I was not part of that purging unit, but accidentally I witnessed the incident because my radio ran out of battery. I went to get a new battery and I encountered such an incident unfolding.”

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