HC Deb 16 March 1953 vol 512 cc164-5W
81. Mr. S. O. Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to make a statement on the latest shootings by United Nations Forces of prisoners of war on Yonchoudo Island, off South Korea, when 23 were killed and 42 wounded.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

The incident occurred in a camp on Yoncho Island, which is one of the Koje group of camps and contains about 8,000 North Korean prisoners of war who are convinced Communists. The pretext for the riot was an order by the compound commander that a prisoner, who had committed an offence, be handed over for segregation. The prisoners refused to comply and attacked with stones the compound commander and his assistant who were unarmed. Guards outside the compound fence fired in defence of the two men, with the result that one prisoner was wounded.

The Camp Commander, a senior officer, then appeared and gave orders that both the wounded prisoner and the prisoner who had committed the offence should be handed over. The prisoners again refused to obey and began a demonstration. On the instructions of the Camp Commander, tear gas was then used to restore order. The prisoners were well prepared for this and at once organised themselves into squads, some to pick up the gas grenades and throw them back, and others to stone the United Nations guards. The guards were then ordered to use individual fire before order was finally restored in the compound.

Three other compounds in the same enclosure conducted violent demonstrations in sympathy, and it was necessary to use tear gas in them also. These prisoners were also well prepared and at once formed squads to throw the gas grenades back.

The trouble began at 7.30 a.m. and order was finally restored at 10.45 a.m. Twenty-three prisoners were killed, 42 seriously wounded and 18 slightly wounded. A large number of United Nations guards were hit by stones, but no one was badly hurt.

A full investigation has been ordered. The conclusion, based on preliminary investigation, is that the incident was carefully planned in advance and that even if the immediate pretext for the incident had not existed some other pretext would have been found.