Khmer Rouge ‘Guarding Prisoners’ Protocol (1975-1979)


Khmer Rouge Security File

Author’s Note: There is no hint of official brutality in this important document of the protocol surrounding the imprisonment and care of suspects or inmates. Those that escape are to be ‘brought back’ and there is no suggestion of shooting an escaping inmate as would be normal in a country such as the USA. Indeed, it is stated that whilst patrolling the exterior, the magazine in the gun of the guard is ‘unloaded’ – with ‘live’ ammunition being carried only on the body of the guard. Guards operating within the prison do not carry guns, but are armed only with sticks. There are medical staff, staff to clean the toilet, look after the animals and prepare food. There are even staff members tasked with fishing. Finally, this text forbides the ‘beating’ of any inmate for any purpose. ACW (7.6.2019)

Office S-21 (Democratic Kampuchea) Phnom Penh Circular

Please all comrades stick to this circular firmly [absolutely].

I. Guarding [Enemy] Regulation

  1. While guarding the prison, do not sit, lie against the wall or write anything. Walk back and forth.
  2. Do not ask the prisoners their names.
  3. Do not walk away from the spot assigned. Do not enter the cells or open the doors or windows to peer at the prisoners inside.
  4. Do not question any prisoner inside the cells, even if you know who they are.
  5. Do not threaten or beat prisoners. If the prisoners disobey the rules or ignore warnings, report to your supervisor in writing or by mouth.
  6. If the prisoners try to break the lock, hang themselves, cut their wrists, or attempt to swallow screws, shackle their hands behind them and report immediately to your supervisor – do not delay.
  7. If a prisoner manages to escape, inform the supervisor at once and assign soldiers to bring them back, do not claim that there are no soldiers.
  8. When patrolling, comrade-members of the group and fifty-member units must be present at the assigned locations.
  9. Do not sleep or sit against the wall. Walk back and forth constantly.
  10. Cadres and youths have to inspect thoroughly at all four designated times. In other words, four inspections are to be conducted in twenty-four hours; at 6 a.m., 11 a.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.
  11. When checking prisoners, undress them and let them dress themselves up before leaving the rooms.
  12. Prisoners are not allowed to take off their clothes. If they do, punish them by taking away all of their clothes.
  13. During patrol, cadres must carefully keep the keys on their person. No keys may be lost. If they are lost, do not cut the lock, but look for them until they are found. If a prisoner escapes from a room where a key has been lost, comrades who held the key will take all responsibility in front of the collective.
  14. Guards must wear military uniform on duty, do not wear short paint.

II. Lock and Shackles

  1. Before locking the cells, check the lock, shackle rings and shackle bars thoroughly and then unlock hand shackles and untie the eyes of the prisoner.
  2. Remaining shackle rings and bars have to be removed from the cells.
  3. Shackle a hand to a leg and stay close to the prisoner when they dispose of their feces. Do not stay away from him.
  4. Check the prisoners’ bodies when they return from the interrogation room.
  5. The length of the chain must be no longer than a half-meter; in any other case inquire of the supervisor.

III. Measures

  1. Prisoners in houses are not allowed to talk to each other.
  2. Prisoners in our prisons are not permitted to talk to each other either.
  3. Those who guard inside the buildings are not permitted to come outside, for the reason that the prisoners might do something bad and not be noticed.
  4. Each house has its own list of prisoners and their room numbers.
  5. For the guns, no bullets are loaded in the magazines attached to the gun, only those worn on the body.
  6. Those who guard inside are not allowed to be armed with guns, only sticks.
  7. Each gun has its owner.
  8. Do not leave the gun down anywhere – hold it.
  9. Do keep the gun near the prisoner or carry it close to them.
  10. Tasks should be set forth clearly during changing of the guard. Inform the new guards about the condition of the prisoners and other important details.
  11. Disposal of feces and urine and checking the prisoners’ bodies is done during the interval by the new guards. The previous guards are not allowed to go anywhere until the replacement guards have done this initial task.

Guarding Unit

  1. Guard inside 127 persons
  2. Medical staff 14 persons
  3. List keeper and maker 2 persons

Total                                        143 persons

Economic (logistics) Unit

  1. Economic (logistics) of the guarding unit 13 persons
  2. Economic (logistics) of interrogation unit 6 persons
  3. Economic (logistics) of the prisoners 7 persons
  4. Collecting and cleaning feces containers 3 persons
  5. Fishers 4 persons
  6. Barbers 5 persons
  7. Pig, chicken and duck feeders 8 persons

Total                                                    46 persons

Messenger Unit

  1. Guard inside special rooms 42 persons
  2. Arresters 8 persons
  3. Vehicle unit 10 persons
  4. Medical staff 2 persons

Total                                        62 persons

15- and 16-Year-Old Youth

  1. Medical training 17 persons
  2. Remaining 59 persons

Total                                        76 persons

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