Khmer Rouge mass grave uncovered

2012-08-06 18:05
Khieu Samphan, former head of state of Cambodia, looks on during the second trial of the top leaders of Khmer Rouge. (File, AP)

Khieu Samphan, former head of state of Cambodia, looks on during the second trial of the top leaders of Khmer Rouge. (File, AP)

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Phnom Pehn - A mass grave thought to contain the remains of hundreds of Khmer Rouge victims has been uncovered in northwestern Cambodia, authorities said on Monday.

Workers found the skeletal remains of at least 17 people last week when they used an excavator to dig up soil for commercial use in Kralanh district, said Siem Reap province deputy military police chief Nhim Seila.

"Some of the skulls were found blindfolded and the hands and feet were tied up with shoelaces," Nhim said, adding that many of the skulls appeared to have suffered heavy blows.

"According to locals, this was a place where the Khmer Rouge killed people every day during the regime. I think there are hundreds of skeletons in the grave," Nhim said.

Military police have closed off the site for inspection.

The Cambodian countryside is littered with thousands of mass graves from the Khmer Rouge regime's reign of terror in the late 1970s when up to two million people died from starvation, overwork, torture or execution.

The Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which researches the atrocities, identified the area in Kralanh as a "Killing Field" in 1998 and estimated about 35 000 bodies are buried there, its director Youk Chhang said.

He said he hoped Cambodia's UN-backed war crimes court, which is currently trying the three top surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, would examine the site for potential evidence of crimes committed by the regime.

"The bones cannot find peace until the truth they hold in themselves has been revealed," he said.

It is not uncommon for Cambodians to uncover Khmer Rouge graves and monks and villagers usually take the bones to a local pagoda or cremate them, Youk added.

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