HC Deb 11 June 1952 vol 502 cc186-9
25. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received from the United Nations Organisation as to the total number of compounds at Koje Camp; the number of these where the Communists have seized control; and the date when control of these compounds was lost by the United Nations commandant.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Eden)

Until the regrouping of prisoners began in April, the camp on Koje Island included four enclosures. These enclosures were divided into a total of 37 compounds. New compounds and enclosures are at present being built and a substantial number of prisoners have now been transferred to the mainland. Until the regrouping is complete, it will not be possible to give precise details of the new arrangements.

As regards the last part of the Question, the hon. Gentleman will realise that, in view of the large number of compounds, it is impossible to give a definite date.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that, unlike Lord Alexander, hon. Members on this side of the House are most unduly perturbed about the events on Koje Island? Does he not think that no bigger blow has been dealt at the democratic cause in Eastern Asia? Can he tell us why we have been kept so long in ignorance of these events on Koje Island?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that anybody—certainly I do not—regards these matters as other than most deplorable and of the greatest concern to us all.

I have just received a report from our Air Vice-Marshal Bouchier, who has been on a tour of the island, and there are two things about which the House might like to be told. The first is that the present operations now going on are being carried out by United States troops, and the second is that Air Vice-Marshal Bouchier saw our company of K.S.L.I. and described them as being in great heart and looking very fit. They are looking after compound 66 with 3,200 officer prisoners in it. He formed the highest opinion of the capacity of General Boatner who has taken over this thankless task.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman going to make a statement at the end of Questions with regard to the operations yesterday in this camp?

Mr. Eden

No, Sir.

Mr. Jones

As the right hon. Gentleman was so kind as to volunteer additional information now, will he make a statement to the House as to the events of yesterday and tell us how many people were killed on each side, what is the nature of the operation and what are the views of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the manner of its conduct?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that I can be expected to do that between now and the end of Questions. If anyone had asked a Private Notice Question I would have been glad to give the information. Perhaps a Question could be asked tomorrow?

26. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what information he has received from the United Nations Organisation as to the number of anti-Communist prisoners who have been executed by Communists in the prison camp at Koje; and what measures it is proposed to take to prevent these actions.

Mr. Eden

The best estimate available to me is that 115 prisoners have been killed by their fellow prisoners since July, 1951. It is possible that additional deaths may have occurred which have been carefully concealed and about which the United Nations Command have no knowledge. The measures now being taken to divide the compounds and separate the prisoners into smaller groups should help to prevent further violence by fanatical Communists against their fellow prisoners. These measures will, it is hoped, be completed in the near future.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that General Ridgeway himself has stated that many bodies are being passed out in the morning, and, as doubtless many more are buried inside the compounds themselves, would the Minister not agree that if British Forces had been in charge there might have been less of a shambles inside these compounds?

Mr. Eden

I do not think that we want to make that kind of comparison—neither do I think the House will on consideration. It is quite clear that the circumstances in these camps have been deplorable, but we do not want to censure anybody. We want to make sure that this business is brought to an end at the earliest possible moment so that normal conditions, so far as they possibly can be, are restored. The figures I have given today are of those bodies taken out by the American guard. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct that there are probably a large number buried. I understand that steps are being taken, when the compounds are cleared, to dig them up, so that we may know even the most horrible truth.

Captain Duncan

In fairness to the K.S.L.I., which my right hon. Friend has said is guarding 3,200 officers, will he make representations to reduce the number of officer prisoners which this company has to look after? It is far too many for one company to guard in a compound.

Mr. Eden

This compound has been visited both by our commanders and by the American commanders and I should be very reluctant myself, without any expert or first-hand knowledge, to intervene in this matter. I mentioned the K.S.L.I, because I thought the House would be glad to hear what excellent spirits the troops are in.

27. Mr. Swingler

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will now publish a White Paper on the events leading up to the employment of British troops in the prisoner-of-war camp on Koje Island.

Mr. Eden

I hope soon to lay before the House a further general White Paper, in continuation of Cmd. 8366, on events in Korea. This would include an account of the events referred to by the hon. Member.

Mr. Swingler

Does that mean that it will include the story of events on Koje Island and deal with the many questions that have hitherto been unanswered about the methods used in the screening of the prisoners of war and the circumstances under which the compounds in this camp came under the control of the prisoners themselves?

Mr. Eden

We are using what information is at our disposal, and we are awaiting a report which General Mark Clark has called for and which we have not yet received, and I hope that it may be possible to include that. Of course, we shall also have a full account when Lord Alexander and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State return at the end of the month.

Mr. Driberg

Has the right hon. Gentleman read the rather disquieting full text of the International Red Cross report on the events of February? Would he consider embodying that in the promised White Paper, as it has been extremely difficult to see the full text in this country?

Mr. Eden

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I have not read it, but I will look it up and perhaps include it in the White Paper.

Back to