Monday, 26 July 2010

Duch Trial Verdict - Khmer Rouge Trial (Khmer Language)

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


Part 6


Part 7


Part 8

Hun Sen is in Singapore for a three-day official visit

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (front) inspects an honour guard as Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong walks behind him at the Istana in Singapore July 26, 2010. Hun Sen is in Singapore for a three-day official visit, as a U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia sentenced a senior member of the Khmer Rouge to 35 years in prison on Monday in its first verdict three decades after the Maoist "Killing Fields" revolution tore Cambodia apart. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) shakes hands with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong before their bilateral meeting at the Istana in Singapore July 26, 2010. Hun Sen is in Singapore for a three-day official visit, as a U.N.-backed tribunal sentenced a senior member of the Khmer Rouge to 35 years in prison on Monday in its first verdict three decades after the Maoist "Killing Fields" revolution tore Cambodia apart. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (C) and a member of an honour guard invite Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (R) to inspect the honour guard at the Istana in Singapore July 26, 2010. Hun Sen is in Singapore for a three-day official visit, as a U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia sentenced a senior member of the Khmer Rouge to 35 years in prison on Monday in its first verdict three decades after the Maoist "Killing Fields" revolution tore Cambodia apart. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Khmer Rouge's chief jailer found guilty of war crimes, will spend 19 years behind bars

via Khmer NZ

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A war crimes tribunal convicted and sentenced the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer Monday for overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 people, in the first verdict involving a senior member of the "killing fields" regime that devastated a generation of Cambodians.

Victims and their relatives burst into tears after hearing that a 35-year sentence given to Kaing Guek Eav — also known as Duch — had been whittled down to just 19 after taking into account time already served and other factors. That effectively means the 67-year-old could one day walk free.

"I can't accept this," said Saodi Ouch, 46, shaking so hard she could hardly talk. "My family died ... my older sister, my older brother. I'm the only one left."

The U.N.-backed tribunal — 10 years and $100 million in the making — has sought to find justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime that killed an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution between 1975-79.

The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998. Four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are awaiting trial. Some legal experts said the tribunal may have acted more leniently with Duch, because they were saving the worst punishment for members of the regime's inner clique.

Duch, who headed Tuol Sleng, a secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

During the 77-day proceedings, Duch admitted to overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 people who passed through the prison's gates. Torture used to extract confessions included pulling out prisoners' toenails, administering electric shocks and waterboarding.

The court said at least 100 people bled to death in medieval-style medical experiments.

Unlike the other defendants, Duch (pronounced DOIK) has several times expressed remorse, even offering at one point to face a public stoning and to allow victims to visit him in jail. But his surprise request on the final day of the trial to be acquitted and freed left many wondering if his contrition was sincere.

"He tricked everybody," said Chum Mey, 79, one of just a few people sent to Tuol Sleng prison — code-named S-21 — who survived. The key witness wiped his eyes. "See ... my tears drop down again. I feel like I was victim during the Khmer Rouge, and now I'm a victim once again."

Duch showed no emotion as he listened Monday to the judge talk about the court's findings.

Nil Nonn, the chief justice, said the jailer was often present during interrogations at Tuol Sleng and signed off on all the tortures and executions, sometimes taking part himself. He said the court had rejected arguments that he was acting on orders from the top because he feared for his own life.

"He worked tirelessly to ensure that S-21 ran as efficiently as possible and did so out of unquestioning loyalty to his superiors," said the judge.

When the verdict was read out, Duch stood up and looked straight ahead, his eyes shifting but again showing no emotion.

The prosecution and defense have one month to appeal.

A former math teacher, Duch joined Pol Pot's movement in 1967. Ten years later, he was the trusted head of its ultimate killing machine, S-21.

After a Vietnamese invasion forced the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979 after a bloody, four-year reign, Duch disappeared for almost two decades, living under various aliases in northwestern Cambodia, where he had converted to Christianity. His chance discovery by a British journalist led to his arrest in May 1999.

Though the tribunal has been credited with helping the traumatized nation speak out publicly for the first time about atrocities committed three decades ago, it has been criticized as well.

The government insisted Cambodians be on the panel of judges, opening the door for political interference. It also sought to limit the number of suspects being tried — fearing, some say, it would implicate its own ranks. The prime minister and other current leaders were once low-level members of the Khmer Rouge.

Though most people doubted Duch would get the maximum life imprisonment, few expected he'd get less than 35 years in jail. The decision to shave 16 for time already served and illegal detention in a military prison, means he has 18 years and 10 months left.

More than 1,000 villagers showed up for the verdict, some traveling more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) by bus.

"It's just unacceptable to have a man who killed thousands of people serving just 19 years," said Theary Seng, a human rights lawyer who lost both of her parents and has been working with others to find justice.

"Now no one is going to have the energy to look at the second case."

An international civil rights lawyer and associate fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs also criticized the court's "unimaginative" reparation order, which was limited to simply publishing the judgment. Mahdev Mohan said the U.N.-backed tribunal could have ordered Duch to build a memorial to the victims and to do other work to deter future crimes against humanity.

Among those at Monday's verdict was New Zealander Rob Hamill, the brother of one of a handful of Westerners killed by the Khmer Rouge. Kerry, then 28, was sailing across Asia when his yacht was captured in Cambodian waters in 1978. He was taken to Tuol Sleng and killed.

Another brother committed suicide months later, and their mother died seven years ago.

"All I can say is my family, who are no longer here to see justice, would not want to see this man set free, even if it's in 19 years time," said Hamill, 46, struggling to contain his emotion. "It's reality but I'm not happy... he should not be a free man."

___

Associated Press Writer Cheang Sopheng contributed to this report.

___

Online:

Hamill wanted longer sentence for Khmer Rouge's Duch


Kaing Guek Eav. Photo / AP

The sentence given to the Khmer Rouge henchman who headed the prison where New Zealander Kerry Hamill was tortured and killed is not enough, his brother says.

New Zealand champion rower Rob Hamill was in court today when Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was sentenced to 35 years jail. However that sentence was reduced for time the 67-year-old has already served.

Hamill said he was initially pleased.

"And I thought yep that's good he'll probably be there for the rest of his days."

But then he realised Duch would only be behind bars 19 more years and would be about 86 when released.

"Definitely not appropriate. The possibility of this guy walking free at any point in the future I just don't believe is appropriate," he told Radio New Zealand.

He said 35 years was acceptable given a maximum 40 was allowed under international law.

"I was initially pleased because the judges only mitigated five years of that 40 and that is a reasonably pleasing outcome considering, but at the end of the day he could be a free man."

Duch is the first Khmer Rouge cadre to be convicted by an international tribunal over the deaths of up to two million people through starvation, overwork and execution at the hands of the regime.

Kerry Hamill ended up at the S-21 or Tuol Sleng prison when the yacht he and friends were sailing strayed into Cambodian waters on August 13, 1978.

One crewman, Canadian Stuart Glass, was shot while Mr Hamill and Briton John Dewhirst were taken for interrogation and torture for two months before being killed.

Mr Hamill testified at the Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on July 26 last year - the 31st anniversary of his brother's abduction. The ECCC is a joint Cambodia-United Nations court and former New Zealand Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright is one of the judges.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge sought to set up a communist utopia. Up to two million people died from starvation, overwork, torture or execution during the 1975-1979 regime.

"It's the end of a chapter with an exclamation mark," said Mr Hamill. "This was a big deal, an historic moment for humanity but in terms of internal family grieving processes... it never ends."

The family struggled with Kerry's loss, one brother committed suicide and Hamill found himself drinking too much. His parents never really got over it.

Hamill is still not letting go. Before sentencing, he bailed up Duch's lawyer to try to arrange a meeting which may happen in the next few days.

"I just want to understand him."

He wants to question Duch about how his ideology led him to kill people and why he carried on even when it must have become clear Cambodia was no communist utopia.

He also wants to press for more information about Kerry, whose body was never found and whose photo - taken of all prisoners on arrival - went missing.

Despite not being happy with the length of the sentence, he hopes it will give some solace, especially to Cambodians who fled the regime.

"I'm hopeful they will get something from it. At least one person has been bought to some sort of justice... To know that this man who met my brother and all those other people in that prison is now sentenced is some sort of justice."

Hamill testified during Duch's hearing and is participating in a documentary.

"Bringing up painful memories isn't necessarily a bad thing," he said. Not having Kerry's body and a lack of information about what happened to him had hampered the grieving process.

The country too, was broken, Hamill said.

"People here are so held back, there's still fear attached to it all. It's a broken society, it really is."

- NZPA

Sentence of Khmer Rouge jailer not enough – Hamill

3News NZ

Mon, 26 Jul 2010

By Melissa Davies

Rob Hamill (Reuters)

One of Pol Pot's right hand men in the Khmer Rouge has been sentenced to 35 years in a landmark case brought by the War Crimes Tribunal.

Around 1.7 million people were brutally tortured and killed under the communist regime in the late 1970s.

A New Zealander, Kerry Hamill, was among the victims and his brother, former Olympian Rob Hamill, was in Cambodia for the sentencing.

Kang Guek Eav, known as comrade Duch, leaned in as the judge described his murderous crimes in graphic detail - stories of how he tortured people by pulling out their toenails.

Duch confessed to being personally responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000 people.

That includes 28-year-old Kerry Hamill - a New Zealand sailor captured in Cambodian waters in 1978. His brother Rob Hamill was among the hundreds at court in Pnomh Penh.

“[I’m] very hopeful for a good outcome. Our family obviously have (sic) a stake in it but for Cambodia this is obviously a huge deal for the millions that suffered,” he said before the verdict.

Inside the Hamill’s got a special mention from the judge who read out some of the names of Duch's victims.

Duch was impassive as he stood to learn his fate.

Former New Zealand Governor General dame Silvia Cartwright is one of five judges who found him guilty of grave crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 35 years jail.

Duch will, however, only serve 30 because the court ruled he had already been held illegally for five years.

Rob Hamill says the sentence is not long enough.

“It will never be closure, you can't bring back the past but it is the end of the chapter I think, obviously for our family having this man brought to justice.”

Rob Hamill has requested a face-to-face meeting with Duch to question him about the last days of Kerry Hamill’s life and to find out where his brother is buried.

Having spoken to Duch's lawyers after sentencing, Rob Hamill says he is reasonably optimistic that meeting may happen.

3 News

Victims: Khmer Rouge jailer's sentence too light

via Khmer NZ

By ROBIN McDOWELL, Associated Press Writer

Monday, July 26, 2010

AP
In this photo released by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia , Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng, a top secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, appears during his sentencing at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, July 26, 2010. The tribunal has found the former Khmer Rouge chief jailer guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and ordered him to serve 19 years in prison. (AP Photo/Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia)

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A war crimes tribunal convicted and sentenced the Khmer Rouge's chief jailer Monday for overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 people, in the first verdict involving a senior member of the "killing fields" regime that devastated a generation of Cambodians.

Victims and their relatives burst into tears after hearing that a 35-year sentence given to Kaing Guek Eav - also known as Duch - had been whittled down to just 19 after taking into account time already served and other factors. That effectively means the 67-year-old could one day walk free.

"I can't accept this," said Saodi Ouch, 46, shaking so hard she could hardly talk. "My family died ... my older sister, my older brother. I'm the only one left."

The U.N.-backed tribunal - 10 years and $100 million in the making - has sought to find justice for victims of the Khmer Rouge regime that killed an estimated 1.7 million people from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution from 1975-79.

The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders are awaiting trial. Some legal experts said the tribunal may have acted more leniently with Duch, because they were saving the worst punishment for members of the regime's inner clique.

Duch, who headed Tuol Sleng, a secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

During the 77-day proceedings, Duch admitted to overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 people who passed through the prison's gates. Torture used to extract confessions included pulling out prisoners' toenails, administering electric shocks and waterboarding.

The court said at least 100 people bled to death in medieval-style medical experiments.

Unlike the other defendants, Duch (pronounced DOIK) has several times expressed remorse, even offering at one point to face a public stoning and to allow victims to visit him in jail. But his surprise request on the final day of the trial to be acquitted and freed, left many wondering if his contrition was sincere.

"He tricked everybody," said Chum Mey, 79, one of just a few people sent to Toul Sleng who survived. The key witness wiped water from his eyes. "See ... my tears drop down again. I feel like I was victim during the Khmer Rouge, and now I'm a victim once again."

Duch showed no emotion as he listened Monday to the judge talk about the court's findings.

Nil Nonn, the chief justice, said the jailer was often present during interrogations at Tuol Sleng and signed off on all the tortures and executions, sometimes taking part himself. He said the court had rejected arguments that he was acting on orders from the top because he feared for his own life.

"He worked tirelessly to ensure that S-21 ran as efficiently as possible and did so out of unquestioning loyalty to his superiors," said the judge.

When the verdict was read out, Duch stood up and looked straight ahead, his eyes shifting but showing no emotion.

The prosecution and defense have one month to appeal.

A former math teacher, Duch joined Pol Pot's movement in 1967. Ten years later, he was the trusted head of its ultimate killing machine, S-21, which became the code name for Tuol Sleng.

After a Vietnamese invasion forced the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979 after a bloody, four-year reign, Duch disappeared for almost two decades, living under various aliases in northwestern Cambodia, where he had converted to Christianity. His chance discovery by a British journalist led to his arrest in May 1999.

Though the tribunal has been credited with helping the traumatized nation speak out publicly for the first time about atrocities committed three decades ago, it has been criticized as well.

The government insisted Cambodians be on the panel of judges, opening the door for political interference. It also sought to limit the number of suspects being tried - fearing, some say, it would implicate its own ranks. The prime minister and other current leaders were once low-level members of the Khmer Rouge.

Though most people doubted Duch would get the maximum life imprisonment, few expected he'd get less than 35 years in jail. The decision to shave 16 for time already served and illegal detention in a military prison, means he has 18 years and 10 months left.

More than 1,000 villagers showed up for the verdict, some traveling more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) by bus.

"It's just unacceptable to have a man who killed thousands of people serving just 19 years," said Theary Seng, a human rights lawyer who lost both of her parents and has been working with others to find justice.

"Now no one is going to have the energy to look at the second case."

An international civil rights lawyer and associate fellow of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs also criticized the court's "unimaginative" reparation order, which was limited to simply publishing the judgement. Mahdev Mohan said the U.N.-backed tribunal could have ordered Duch to build a memorial to the victims and to do other work to deter future crimes against humanity.

Among those at Monday's verdict was New Zealander Rob Hamill, the brother of one of a handful of Westerners killed by the Khmer Rouge. Kerry, then 28, was sailing across Asia when his yacht was captured in Cambodian waters in 1978. He was taken to Toul Sleng and killed.

Another brother committed suicide months later, and their mother died seven years ago.

"All I can say is my family, who are no longer here to see justice, would not want to see this man set free, even if it's in 19 years time," said Hamill, 46, struggling to contain his emotion. "It's reality but I'm not happy... he should not be a free man."

---

Associated Press Writer Cheang Sopheng contributed to this report from

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Meets with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia Hor Namhong

via Khmer NZ

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov met on July 22 with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia Hor Namhong on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi.

The parties discussed topical issues in Russian-Cambodian relations. They reiterated mutual interest in strengthening bilateral cooperation, primarily in foreign policy, humanitarian, trade, economic and investment fields.

At the conclusion of the meeting the Ministers signed a Memorandum to extend until December 31, 2012 the Program of Cultural Exchanges between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia 2006-2008.

Bubba's Bagels: A symbol of a better life for immigrant staff

http://www.theunion.com/

via Khmer NZ

Monday, July 26, 2010

By Michelle Rindels
Staff Writer

The staff at Bubba's Bagels, 11043 Nevada City Highway, Grass Valley, left to right: Erika Johnson, Apolinario Lares, Miguel Lares, Susie Bryant, Kannitha Tann, and Srey Rath Sreang.
Photo for The Union by John Hart

Kannitha Tann's mother remembers the years of Pol Pot, the cruel dictator whose communist experiment in the late 1970s killed off about one-fifth of Cambodia's population.

Children were placed in separate concentration camps than their parents, but Tann's mother tiptoed out under the cloak of night, stealing whatever food she could find and delivering it surreptitiously to her five children.

At 27, Tann is too young to remember the darkest days of her native Cambodia, and she's far removed from it as she stands behind a glass case of magazine-perfect golden bagels at her restaurant, Bubba's Bagels on Nevada City Highway.

Food is plentiful at Bubba's, and customers file in at the lunch hour for thick, fresh bagel sandwiches. The hole-in-the-wall shop is a poignant symbol of the American Dream for the Cambodian and Guatemalan employees, who immigrated from their war- and poverty-stricken homelands for a better life.

“In Cambodia, I didn't see any future. There was nothing big for me or my family,” Tann said. “With the bagel shop, there's more freedom.”

A dream deferred

Coming to the United States was a dream long deferred for Tann.

“I always wanted to experience new stuff here,” she said. “My mom always wanted to come here, and she was trying to get all of her kids out.”

Two attempts to leave Cambodia via Thailand failed. On the third try, a family member got out and started sending for his family.

Tann's family bought a donut shop near Big 5 Sporting Goods and saw the bagel shop on the market in the mid-2000s. They snapped it up.

Even though the breakfast snacks are unheard of in Cambodia, “I fell in love with the bagel,” Tann said.

Tann's husband Howie was lucky enough to get an American sponsor in Rhode Island who brought him over as a refugee. A long-lost family friend, Howie reconnected with Kannitha after 20 years apart. They married and now have a 2-year-old son.

Multicultural staff

In the back of the restaurant, the air is warm, and the language is solamente espaƱol — only Spanish.

Apolinario Lares shows the massive stash of pre-cut bagels in the walk-in freezer, the only respite from the industrial oven.

Lares, 36, and his two younger brothers Miguel, 21, and Ronaldo, 28, started work at Bubba's three years ago. They trade off, with two working the day shift and one working the graveyard shift to prepare for the customers that sometimes knock anxiously on the shop windows before the 6 a.m. opening.

Guatemala — a Central American nation racked by a 36-year long armed conflict that ended in 1996 — still suffers from endemic poverty. Even Nevada County's 11.5 percent June unemployment rate looks cushy in comparison.

“There isn't much work there,” he said. “People make $8 a day there. People can make that much in an hour here.”

Lares hasn't seen his wife and children for a few years, so he talks to them every day on the phone.

Much of his money goes straight back to Guatemala to send his children to school there.

He's planning a vacation soon.

“I miss them,” he said.

Meanwhile, he enjoys work at the shop and has mastered a few trade secrets in spite of the language barrier.

The bagels are a nice perk, too — the spinach and cheddar ones are the best, Lares said.

Facebook following

The bagel shop has a loyal following on Facebook, where college students in a group called “Life is not the same without Bubba's Bagels!” opine about their favorite flavor and lament the lack of Bubba's great “hangover food.”

About eight local businesses re-sell Bubba's baked goods; skiiers on their way to Tahoe make a bagel stop before they hit the slopes, and the shop gets orders to deploy the famous fare in care packages to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Inside the modest storefront, bordered by a liquor store and fast food restaurants and guarded by a cartoon bulldog on a red Bubba's Bagels sign, employees say the multicultural staff is like a family.

“It's not just a business — they pour their whole life into it,” said employee Erika Johnson, 21. “It changed my life. They taught me about hard work and sacrifice and love for family.”

Next to her, Tann starts to cry, touched.

“It's true,” Johnson said.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

Khmer Rouge Warden Duch Sentenced to 30 Years for Cambodia Killing Fields


via Khmer NZ

By Daniel Ten Kate - Jul 26, 2010

A United Nations-backed tribunal found the Khmer Rouge’s top prison warden guilty of mass killings in Cambodia, the first conviction after a 13-year effort to hold leaders of the failed regime to account.

Kang Kek Ieu, also known as Duch, will spend the next three decades in prison after judges reduced his 35-year sentence because he was unlawfully detained from 1999 to 2007, according to a live broadcast of the proceedings. Prosecutors had sought a 40-year jail sentence for his role in the regime blamed for the deaths of least 1.7 million people from 1975 to 1979, roughly a quarter of the population at the time.

Judges noted “the shocking and heinous character of the offenses, which were perpetrated against at least 12,273 victims over a prolonged period,” according to the verdict, read by Trial Chamber President Nil Nonn. “Such factors, when considered cumulatively, warrant a substantial term of imprisonment.”

The landmark ruling may help boost the image of Southeast Asia’s second-poorest country, which has encouraged foreign investment to increase incomes that average $1.90 per day. The government aims to open a stock exchange within the year after a decade in which annual economic growth averaged 8 percent.

“The sentence should make it inconceivable for a 67-year- old man to again walk the streets free for even one hour,” said Theary Seng, whose parents were killed under the Khmer Rouge and who now runs a human rights group. “Thirty is the minimum in my mind. That would effectively equal a life sentence.”

Many Cambodians are too young to remember the Khmer Rouge, with a third of the country’s 14.2 million people under the age of 15. The regime’s leaders lived freely in Cambodia for years until the government requested United Nations assistance in 1997 to start a tribunal.

Murder, Torture Charges

The court found Duch guilty of charges involving pre- meditated murder, torture, rape and enslavement at Tuol Sleng prison in the capital, Phnom Penh, where only about a dozen of at least 12,000 inmates survived. The converted elementary school was the most notorious prison in a network that targeted the country’s educated elite as the movement attempted to create an agrarian society starting at Year Zero.

Four older and more senior leaders are also in custody and facing trial before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, including former head of state Khieu Samphan, 78, ex- foreign minister Ieng Sary, 84, his wife Ieng Thirith, 78, and Nuon Chea, 84, the movement’s second-in-command. Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot and military chief Ta Mok have died.

Those trials have “larger implications and involve larger interests” because they may expose the roles of China, Thailand and the U.S. in the Khmer Rouge era and entangle members of the current government, Theary Seng said. She called Duch’s case “a cake walk” by comparison.

Apology to Victims

At the start of the trial in March 2009, Duch accepted blame and apologized to survivors and victims’ families. Cooperating with the court was the “only remedy that can help me to relieve all of the sorrow of the crimes that I have committed,” the former math teacher, who converted to Christianity in 1996, told the court according to a transcript.

Fifty-five witnesses testified at the trial, including 22 victims who talked about how prison officials tortured them with electric shocks, suffocation and beatings. Guards smashed babies against tree trunks and forced prisoners to eat feces, according to testimony during the trial.

“I could never forget the suffering that I received until the day that I die,” survivor Chum Mey, who had his toenails ripped out at the prison, told the court. “Once justice can be done, then I would feel better.”

Anything less than a 40-year sentence “would be a completely and utterly inadequate response,” William Smith, one of the prosecutors, told judges at the final court hearing in November. Duch has been detained since his arrest in 1999.

“The chamber considers that a reduction of the above sentence of five years is appropriate given the violation of the Kaing Kek Iev’s rights by this illegal detention by Cambodian military court” from 1999 to 2007, the verdict said.

Khmer Rouge Rise

The Khmer Rouge took power after a U.S. bombing campaign during the Vietnam War stirred discontent in the countryside against General Lon Nol’s coup-installed government. Led by Pol Pot, the regime evacuated Phnom Penh to put people to work on farms and closed all schools, universities and monasteries. Money, markets and private property were abolished.

The regime collapsed in 1979 when Vietnam invaded and took the capital. The U.S. and China backed the Khmer Rouge to continue representing Cambodia at the United Nations, providing the regime legitimacy until 1993, when the first post-conflict elections were held.

Taxpayers from Japan have provided $46 million to the tribunal since it began operating in 2006, or about half of total contributions, according to documents on the court’s website. The U.S. has provided $1.8 million and China hasn’t given any funds for the trial.

Cambodia attracted $593 million in foreign direct investment last year, a 10th that of neighboring Thailand, according to the Asian Development Bank. Chevron Corp., the second-biggest U.S. oil company, and BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, have investments in the country.

The U.S. earlier this month co-hosted the first large-scale military exercise in Cambodia involving field training for peacekeeping missions. Beijing provided Cambodia with 257 military trucks last month after the U.S. halted a similar shipment in April to protest the deportation of 20 Uigher asylum seekers to China.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at dtenkate@bloomberg.net  

Who's on trial at Cambodia's war crimes tribunal


via Khmer NZ

By The Associated Press
The Associated Press
Monday, July 26, 2010; 2:06 AM

-- The former chief of the Khmer Rouge's main prison and torture facility was convicted Monday of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to 35 years in prison, ending the first case before a U.N.-backed tribunal since the regime's fall 30 years ago. Four other former leaders of the regime are awaiting trials, expected to start later this year.

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Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, 67. He will serve only 19 years of the tribunal's 35-year sentence because he has spent 11 years in detention awaiting trial.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) ran the notorious Tuol Sleng - or S-21 - detention center in Phnom Penh. He admitted to overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 men, women and children during the regime's 1975-1979 rule that left 1.7 million dead.

Duch was accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes, premeditated murder and torture and faced a maximum of life in prison. Prosecutors had requested a 40-year sentence, arguing that he had admitted guilt and expressed remorse.

Nuon Chea, 84. The Khmer Rouge's chief ideologist, known as "Brother No. 2." He was second in command to Pol Pot, the top leader who died in 1998. He is accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide, torture and religious persecution.

He denies guilt and says he is not a "cruel" man but acted as a "patriot."

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Khieu Samphan, 79. The regime's former head of state. He is accused of crimes against humanity, homicide, torture and religious persecution. He has denied responsibility for the atrocities and blames Pol Pot for the group's policies. In his 2004 memoir he says he was only a "shell" for the Khmer Rouge and had nothing to do with its radical policies.

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Ieng Sary, 85. The Khmer Rouge's former foreign minister. He is accused of crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide, torture and religious persecution. He disputes the charges and has demanded his guilt be proven.

Ieng Sary and his wife were part of Pol Pot's inner circle that made key decisions. He is accused of persuading diplomats and intellectuals based overseas to return to Cambodia. Most of the returnees were executed.

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Ieng Thirith, 78. The wife of Ieng Sary, a sister-in-law of Pol Pot's and the regime's minister of social affairs. She is accused of involvement in the "planning, direction, coordination and ordering of widespread purges" and has been charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide, torture and religious persecution. She has called the charges "100 percent false."

Providing free eye surgery to Cambodian patients

via Khmer NZ

A delegation of Vietnamese voluntary doctors on July 25 wrapped up their working trip to Cambodia’s Svay Rieng border province where they provided free eye examination and surgery to the poor patients.

The trip was jointly organised by the Tay Ninh Red Cross and Nguyen Trai hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Within two days’ working, the Vietnamese doctors conducted cataract surgeries for 176 patients and distributed free medication to 310 others in the province.

The total cost of the trip, including operation fee, medicines and gifts to the people, was worth roughly US$10,400.

UN-backed tribunal jails Khmer Rouge member for war crimes

via Khmer NZ

Published: Monday July 26, 2010

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A U.N.-backed tribunal has found the former Khmer Rouge chief jailer guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and ordered him to serve 19 years in prison.

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, listened impassively as the chief judge read out the verdict Monday.

It was the first verdict to be handed down against a senior member of the genocidal regime blamed for the deaths of 1.7 million people during their 1975-79 reign of terror.

The court sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison, but shaved off the 11 years he's already spent in detention and five more for cooperating with the court. - AP

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, who ran the notorious Toul Sleng, a top secret detention center for the worst "enemies" of the state, appears on a television screen of the press center of the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, July 26, 2010. The tribunal Monday sentenced him to 35 years in jail - AP

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Earlier report

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - A U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal hands down a verdict Monday in the first trial of a senior member of the Khmer Rouge regime that turned Cambodia into a vast killing field three decades ago.

The defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, ran the notorious Toul Sleng detention center reserved for "enemies" of the state. He admitted overseeing the deaths of up to 16,000 men, women and children who passed through its gates and asked for forgiveness during his 77-day trial.

Duch is widely expected to be found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but many people in this still-traumatized nation are anxiously awaiting the sentence.

Anything short of the maximum life behind bars could trigger public outrage.

Riot police lined up outside the court on the outskirts of the capital as hundreds of villagers - all of whom lost family members during the Khmer Rouge's 1975-79 reign of terror - started arriving by the bus load.

An estimated 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, medical neglect, slave-like working conditions and execution under the Maoist regime that sought to turn the country into an agrarian utopia. Their bodies were dumped in shallow mass graves that still dot the countryside.

The group's top leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 and four other top members of the Khmer Rouge are awaiting trial.

Unlike the other defendants, Duch (pronounced DOIK) was not among the ruling clique and is the only major figure of the regime to have expressed remorse, even offering at one point to face a public stoning.

His surprise request on the final day to be acquitted and freed, however, left many wondering if his contrition was sincere. Some worry he will get off lightly.

Prosecutors asked that he face 40 years in prison, but because the 67-year-old has mitigated with the court and already spent 11 years in detention, there is a chance he'll get less than that.

Vietnamese firms focus more on Cambodia

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07/26/2010

Vietnam’s business groups have revved up investment in Cambodia and actively contributed to the local social security programmes, said the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Cambodia (AVIC).

At a review meeting in Siem Reap city on July 25, the AVIC said Vietnam has become the third largest foreign investor in Cambodia, after China and the Republic of Korea.

According to statistics presented at the meeting, Vietnamese businesses were granted licences for 63 projects within the past year with a combined investment capital of US$900 million.

Various economic groups and corporations in Vietnam have entered the Cambodian market, investing in different areas including telecommunications, finance and banking, air transport, agriculture, light industry, rubber and industrial tree planting, mining, energy and healthcare.

Prominent among Vietnamese investors are the Vietnam military telecom corporation (Viettel), the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), the Vietnam Coal and Minerals Corporation (VINACOMIN), Vietnam Airlines and Hoang Anh Gia Lai group.

Apart from trade and investment activities, Vietnamese businesses have provided funding to the local social welfare schemes, with a commitment of US$6 million.

DAP News. Breaking News in Cambodia

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Singapore Invests about 507 million US Dollars in Cambodia

Monday, 26 July 2010 06:49 DAP-NEWS/ Vibol

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JULY 26, 2010-Singapore has invested in Cambodia about 507 million US dollars from 1994-2010, a report from Cambodian side obtained on Monday said.

Singapore has invested different fields from education training to technology system in Cambodia, it added.

It continued that in 2009, bilateral trade volume was worth about 690 million US dollars, while Cambodia exported to Singapore about 481 million US dollars against 208 million US dollars from Singapore to Cambodia.

It added that for five months of this year, 16, 144 Singaporean tourists arrived Cambodia and last year about 41,273 Singaporean tourists visited here. On Sunday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife left here to pay a three day visit in Singapore to strengthen bilateral ties between two countries according to invitation of his Singaporean counterpart.

Duch, former head of S-21 sentences 35 years in Jail

Monday, 26 July 2010 04:25 DAP-NEWS/ Vibol

CAMBODIA, PHNOM PENH, JULY 26, 2010-The UN-Cambodian court on Monday announced that Duch jailed 35 years for war crimes and crimes against humanity that committed during his role as former head of notorious S-21 prison in Pol Pot regime (1975-1979).

Non Nin, head of trial Chamber of the Khmer Rouge tribunal announced the public verdict for Duch, 68, with 35 years in jail because Duch seriously violated international laws. But his term will deduce because he already served about 10 years in jail already after he has been arrested in 1999. He will serve his term about 25 years from now.

Original name, Kaing Guek Eav known as Duch, revolutionary name joined 1967 of Communits party of Kampuchea. About 12,000 people died of torture, execution, and starvation in the prison.

My client will file the appeal complaint for the case,” Ka Savuth,co- lawyer of Duch said previously.

Duch sentenced to 30 years


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Monday, 26 July 2010 11:55 Post Staff

Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal today handed down its first guilty verdict against a senior Khmer Rouge figure, Tuol Sleng prison director Duch, for crimes committed under the regime more than 30 years ago.

Judges at the United Nations-backed court sentenced Duch to 35 years in prison. However, they reduced his sentence by five years after ruling that he had been illegally detained by a military court following his arrest in 1999.

Duch's prison term was reduced by a further 11 years for time served, meaning that he faces a total of 19 years behind bars.

Duch, whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav, was convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role at Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the regime’s most important interrogation centre where as many as 16,000 men, women and children were brutalised before being systematically exterminated.

Only 14 people are known to have survived Tuol Sleng, which under Duch’s meticulous and rigid hand evolved into an efficient killing machine that came to symbolise the worst excesses of increasingly paranoid Khmer Rouge leaders.

Entire families were imprisoned for the alleged crimes of a single member, and on a single day in 1977 alone, Duch ordered the executions of 160 children.

The verdict marks the first time that a Khmer Rouge official has been convicted by an internationally recognised court for crimes committed during the 1975-79 communist regime, which dismantled modern Cambodian society as it sought to build a classless agrarian utopia.

Education, religion and currency were abolished, and the country’s entire population was put to work in vast collective farms.

This radical social-engineering experiment, however, quickly became one of the 20th century’s worst tragedies, with an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians dying of disease, exhaustion from overwork, torture or execution.

During a six-month trial last year – the tribunal’s first – prosecutors painted Duch, a 67 year-old former math teacher, as a driving force behind the regime’s execution campaign, and argued that he guided crimes committed at Tuol Sleng.

Duch’s defence, on the other hand, contended that he had merely carried out orders issued by his superiors with an eye towards ensuring his own survival.

His lawyers also stressed the fact that Duch, a converted Christian, is the only suspect held by the tribunal to have confessed and expressed remorse for crimes committed during the regime years.

This tactic, however, was undermined during closing arguments last November, when Duch, who had earlier told judges he would be willing to submit himself to a public stoning, asked instead to be acquitted and released.

In the run-up to the verdict, he fired his international co-lawyer, who appeared to have been the architect of his bid for a mitigated sentence. This move prompted observers to speculate that Duch will mount a vigorous appeal.

Five former Khmer Rouge leaders, including Duch, have been detained so far by the tribunal. The court now moves on to Case 002, for which the remaining four regime leaders are awaiting a trial expected to begin some time next year.

Testing time


Photo by: Sovan Philong

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Monday, 26 July 2010 15:00 Khouth Sophakchakrya

Students in Sihanoukville record their assigned rooms and tables yesterday in advance of examinations set to begin today. The Education Ministry said 108,433 twelfth-graders nationwide are slated to sit for the exams, which will be administered until Wednesday.

Day of reckoning


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Monday, 26 July 2010 15:03 Post Staff

TO the right is the face of a survivor, photographed yesterday, one of the few who made it out of Tuol Sleng, or S-21, alive. In July of last year, Bou Meng described for the Khmer Rouge tribunal the months he spent at the secret torture facility – how he was subjected to beatings and electric shocks during interrogation sessions, and how he was spared because of his ability to paint 3-metre-high portraits of Pol Pot, a task he carried out under the watchful eye of commandant Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch.

This morning, the tribunal is set to hand down its first verdict, making Duch the only member of the regime so far to be held to account for the nightmare that saw nearly a quarter of Cambodia’s people lose their lives due to overwork, sickness, starvation, torture and execution.

Robert Jackson, head of the United Nations Emergency Aid for Cambodia following the ouster of Democratic Kampuchea in 1979, called the Khmer Rouge reign of terror “the greatest human tragedy of the 20th century”, and it is clear that many Cambodians are still struggling to overcome the Khmer Rouge years. Across the country, the estimated 5 million survivors still living, are frequently reduced to tears when asked to discuss their experiences.

Though never touted as a cure-all for this trauma, the tribunal carries the hopes of millions who have waited for decades to see the regime’s senior leaders held accountable. Critics have accused the court of falling victim to delays, corruption and political interference, but it is undeniable that today’s proceedings represent a landmark in Cambodian history.

Over six months of hearings last year, Duch expressed contrition for his role as head of Tuol Sleng, but claimed he was only following orders from his ruthless superiors.

Though many saw his testimony as selective and self-serving, he cooperated with the court and discussed the inner workings of his prison at length. Essentially pleading guilty, he offered at one point to submit himself to public stoning, and asked that his victims be permitted to visit him in prison.

All of this was undermined in stunning fashion during closing arguments in November, however, when Duch asked to be released. Prosecutors had earlier demanded a 40-year prison term.

It remains to be seen what penalty the judges deem appropriate for the inscrutable former cadre, and whether it will be enough for the millions who suffered under the Khmer Rouge.

Duch’s neighbours reflect on his life


Photo by: Sebastian Strangio
Kong Suon, 85, the oldest resident of Chaoyot village, was enraged when Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, asked to be set free.

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Monday, 26 July 2010 15:02 Sebastian Strangio and May Titthara

Kampong Thom province

THESE days, life in Chaoyot village, a collection of stilt houses nestled along the banks of the Stoung river, proceeds in much the same way it did 68 years ago, when Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, was born to parents of Khmer-Chinese extraction. It was here, in a small concrete home shaded by bamboo groves and mango trees, that Duch spent his childhood years, cycling each day the short distance to the local primary school.

The rustling palms and rutted village track are worlds away from Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the secret Khmer Rouge facility that Duch moulded into an efficient machine of interrogation, torture and death. As head of the prison, Duch is thought to have overseen the torture and killing of as many as 16,000 people, creating a nihilistic whirlwind from which only 14 or so emerged alive.

As the Khmer Rouge tribunal prepares to deliver its verdict against the 68-year old today – perhaps the only one it will ever issue – the proceedings have not gone unnoticed in Chaoyot. But the desire to see justice served means different things to different residents; whereas some are unsure how to relate Duch’s crimes to the abuses they personally endured during the regime, others seem to feel their effects acutely.

More than six decades since his birth, Duch has left only a faint trace in Chaoyot. His neat family home, currently occupied by his nephew Kim Luon, still stands, surrounded by a well-tended yard that abuts the road. Dy Thy, 63, one of Duch’s old neighbours, said she heard nothing from him during the 1975-1979 rule of the Khmer Rouge, and that she found it hard to square the quiet young student she remembers with the horrors of Tuol Sleng.

“I supposed that the Khmer Rouge were people from abroad,” she said. “I didn’t know they were Cambodian people – especially not a person born in this village.”

An exceptional student
Duch lived in Chaoyot until about the age of 14. Residents recall that from his earliest years, the boy who went by the nickname “Kiev” stood out as an exceptional student. Sem Thuon, now 69, regularly shared a table with Duch at Wat Svay Romeat primary school between the first and third grades. “I always copied from him during the exams, and he allowed me to copy,” she said. “I never thought that he would become a strong Khmer Rouge leader.”

In many ways, however, Duch’s intellectual journey epitomised that of the Cambodian communist movement. Like other regime leaders, he was a beneficiary of the sweeping educational reforms Prince Norodom Sihanouk introduced in the late 1950s. Intended to modernise the country and expand opportunities in the countryside, the reforms instead created a class of educated but underemployed young men and women who helped pry apart the country’s centuries-old system of patronage. As the 1960s wore on, Sihanouk – the God-King himself – came under stronger attack from the growing ranks of the left.

After completing the first round of his secondary education in Kampong Thom in 1961, the teenage Duch continued to excel academically. He won a place at the prestigious Lycee Sisowath in Phnom Penh, where he completed his baccalaureate in mathematics.

Three years later, he graduated from the Institut de Pedagogie, a teacher-training college then headed by Son Sen, the future Khmer Rouge Minister of National Security and Defence.

His first teaching post was in Skuon, in Kampong Cham province, where he cultivated radical ideas, reportedly carrying about a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s “Little Red Book” and openly agitating on behalf of the communist movement. Following the arrest of three of his students during anti-leftist crackdowns in 1967, Duch fled to Chamkar Leu district, then a Khmer Rouge stronghold, where he became a full member of the Communist Party of Kampuchea.

In 1970, following a two-year spell in prison for antigovernment activities, Duch travelled to Omlaing, in Kampong Speu province, where he helped established a prison camp known as M-13. In his book The Gate, the French anthropologist Francois Bizot, who was detained at M-13 following his capture by Khmer Rouge insurgents in 1971, describes Duch as an intelligent but rigid thinker, one who was open to fireside political debates but unyielding in his views.

M-13 was where Duch gathered around him the cadres who would eventually form the trusted core of his team at Tuol Sleng.

‘They will kill him secretly’
At 85, Kong Suon is the oldest resident of Chaoyot village, matching year-for-year the age of his spacious but battered wooden stilt home. Despite his age, he has barely missed a beat of the Duch trial, following the proceedings on both television and radio.

Sitting on his shaded stoop, the withered old man, who lost two sons to the Khmer Rouge regime, described his personal interest in seeing Duch brought to justice. He said he had been enraged during closing statements last November, when the man who had repeatedly apologised and expressed a willingness to accept responsibility for his crimes told judges at the last possible moment that he wished to be acquitted and released.

“I was so angry when I saw Kiev apologise to the court during the TV broadcast and ask for freedom. Why doesn’t he think about the people who were killed at S-21?” he said. “I really miss my two sons. They were students – they didn’t do anything wrong, but Pol Pot’s soldiers killed them.”

His wife, 82-year-old Mar Po, a distant relative of Duch, predicted that the court wouldn’t dare let him go because of the number of people whose lives he scarred. “If he is released, he will not survive because a lot of people are angry at him, so they will kill him secretly,” she said.

But residents also describe a sense of ambivalence towards the proceedings. Sem Thuon said that she pitied her former classmate after she learned of his arrest, and that she hoped he would receive mercy from the court. “I want him to be released from prison because everything has been passed over already,” she said. “I pardon him because I now respect the Buddha’s teachings.”

Mar Po, whose parents and son were killed during the Pol Pot regime, said Duch had already reaped a bitter karmic harvest for his actions. “Now his bad deeds have been returned to him – his wife was killed by a thief in Samlot after the Pol Pot regime,” she said, referring to an attack that took place in the mid-1990s in Battambang province.

From school to prison and back
As Duch became an increasingly committed revolutionary, he gradually grew disconnected from the place of his birth. Shortly after the Khmer Rouge victory of April 1975, he returned home for a single night en route to Phnom Penh, sporting his new nom de guerre and an entourage of black-clad cadres. During the visit, described in photographer Nic Dunlop’s book The Lost Executioner, Duch regaled the village with visions of the new communist society to come. He was soon consumed by his macabre work at Tuol Sleng, and he did not return to the village before the regime’s downfall in 1979.

By the time Duch reached Phnom Penh, his hometown had already been swept up in the maelstrom unleashed by the movement. Many of Chaoyot’s inhabitants were marched to Samlot, in Battambang province, where they were put to work constructing dams and farming communal rice paddies. In their place came evacuated residents of Phnom Penh, or “new people”, who were violently pressed into the service of the revolution.

Residents of Stoung district recall how a school building outside the district town was converted into a prison. A concrete stupa at the nearby Preah Theat pagoda contains the bones of hundreds of victims, including many from Duch’s own village, who succumbed to the horrific working conditions and were disposed of in the surrounding rice fields.

Tim Sath, a 63-year-old Buddhist nun at the pagoda, said that in her Khmer Rouge commune, one tin of rice was shared among five to 10 adult workers. Rations for children were so small they were measured using the remnants of 79mm artillery shells; half a casing’s worth of grain was split three ways.

When asked about the tribunal, Tim Sath said Duch should pay for plunging his homeland into violence and upheaval. “Kiev should be sentenced [to jail] for his whole life,” she said, “because I am scared that if he is released he will connect with his partners to re-establish the Khmer Rouge regime again, and the young generation will suffer like we did.”

‘He does not listen and does not believe’
Although those old enough to remember the Khmer Rouge eagerly await Duch’s verdict, younger residents of Chaoyot seem more removed from the proceedings. “The young generation does not care about the Khmer Rouge, and they do not believe the Khmer Rouge tortured people,” said Ung Kok Henh, who spent 25 days in detention at the Khmer Rouge prison in Stoung, which has since been transformed into Sei Sophaon High School. “Even though my son is 32 years old, I have told him about the Khmer Rouge, but he does not listen and does not believe it because he was born after the regime passed.”

Sitting in a roadside cafe, Khorn Sopheap, 28, said he did not pay much attention to the Khmer Rouge tribunal and knew little of the regime’s history. Unlike his older brother, who went to high school during the 1980s, when the Khmer Rouge period was covered as part of the national school curriculum, he was never taught about it. “Maybe I will watch TV on Monday and maybe not, because I am busy,” he said over the roar of a motorised sugarcane press. “But I want to know about Duch’s verdict. I think he should be sentenced for many years.”

Sipping on a glass of sugarcane juice, 18-year-old Tan Yona, a student at Sei Sophaon High School, also said he knew little about the court. “I have not paid much attention to the Khmer Rouge, but I heard people say that they did cruel things during that time,” he said. Asked what Duch’s punishment should be, he said the court should either “sentence him for his whole life or execute him”.

‘It was hard to believe’
Following the fall of Phnom Penh to the Vietnamese army in January 1979, Duch went into hiding. It was not until March 1999 that he resurfaced in Samlot district, where he was living under an assumed name and working for a Christian NGO. Dunlop discovered Duch after recognising him from an undated photo from the Khmer Rouge years that showed the grinning prison chief addressing a party meeting.

“As I stood before Comrade Duch, I did my best to avoid singling him out from the others,” Dunlop wrote in The Lost Executioner. “It was hard to believe that this small, disarming man in front of me had been the commandant of Tuol Sleng.”

Duch was arrested not long after his whereabouts were reported in the media. Throughout his trial, he seemed to have come to terms with his actions, as well as the need to pay for them in full. But the last-minute bid for acquittal has set the stage for an uncertain conclusion today.

Whatever the outcome, villagers in Chaoyot are as far off as anyone from coming to grips with the mania that drove the Khmer Rouge killing machine.

“Until today I still think and wonder why Pol Pot tortured and killed Cambodian people,” Ung Kok Henh said. “I still have not yet found the reason.”

Nic Dunlop, the Irish photographer who uncovered Duch living in anonymity, reflects on his discovery and on the man he found


Photo by: John Vink/Magnum Photos
Nic Dunlop attends a hearing in the Duch trial last year.

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Monday, 26 July 2010 15:02 James O'Toole

IN 1999, after a series of trips into the Cambodian countryside, photojournalist Nic Dunlop discovered Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav living under an assumed name and working for an aid agency in Battambang province’s Samlot district. The two spoke briefly, and Dunlop later returned to Samlot with fellow journalist Nate Thayer to confront the former Khmer Rouge leader, better known as Duch, about his dark past. Duch initially deflected their questions, discussing his work with the Ministry of Education in the district. Eventually, however, he relented: “It is God’s will that you are here. Now my future is in God’s hands,” he told them. Speaking by phone from London, Dunlop talked to the Post about his initial encounter with Duch and all that’s happened since then.

What was going through your mind as you and Nate Thayer spoke with Duch in Samlot?
These photographs of Duch that I took in 1999 in Samlot, he’s actually confessing for the very, very first time to mass murder, to the crimes that he’d committed, expressing what appeared to be genuine remorse. The strange thing was that it was almost as though it was a continuation from the previous conversation of talking about refugees and the problems in the area, and then there’s this extraordinary confession and the whole atmosphere changed.

The thing about Duch is that he never looked at myself or Nate in the eye, or very rarely, because he was aware of his audience – he was very much the teacher giving the lesson about Khmer Rouge history and his role in it. It was a weird experience, because on the one hand, it was extremely ordinary, and yet the content of the conversation was so extraordinary.

What were your thoughts following this conversation, as you had time to reflect on this discovery that you had made?
It was very hard to judge the atmosphere, to judge what was going on, to judge what he meant by it. At one point, towards the end of the interview, he said, “Do people know who you are, and do they know who I am?” and we said that no, only we knew, and he said something like, “They’ll be really angry if they know. You must leave now.” We were trying to push him to guarantee our security if we returned, and he was very evasive.

It was very strange, so you kind of realise that you’re still in a very precarious place. We were still in a Khmer Rouge zone, there were still not-very-friendly people around, hostile towards outsiders, so you realise it was a situation that could change at any moment. Up until that moment, I didn’t know whether he was still an executioner.

What was it about Duch that fascinated you and got you started on this project?
Well for me, as a teenager growing up in sort of a secure environment, what happened under the Khmer Rouge represented something so far removed from anything I understood or so far from my experience that not addressing it, not trying to find out and understand some of it, wasn’t an option. For me, Duch represented the possibility of understanding.

When I went to Tuol Sleng, obviously it has an immediate impact to anybody who sets foot in there, and [to] a 19-year-old, it really did make a very, very strong impression. I remember looking at [Duch’s] photograph as a young photographer in Cambodia, and thinking, you know, if there was one man that I could talk to who could explain something, who actually not only was a senior cadre but also participated in the horror himself, Duch would be the man, assuming he was alive and assuming he wanted to talk. And then, nine years later, I stumbled upon him, or at least he walked up to me.

But it was really a quest for understanding, not so much a quest where I’d ever expect to find Duch, although I carried around his photograph. I wanted to understand where the Khmer Rouge had come from, their context, who they were. So much of the time when we talk about terrorists, when we talk about odious regimes, it’s almost like they’ve sort of dropped in from another planet, that they’ve come out of the jungle and don’t have families and haven’t gone to school – they’re just sort of monsters and that’s it.

Does the Duch who spoke at trial seem like the same person you met back in Samlot?
Yeah, broadly speaking, he’s remained consistent to what he said back then, but of course the politics and the situation have changed dramatically for him. Back then, I think he was under the impression that he was protected, and there was no incentive, really, for him to talk openly as he did then. Of course now, everything has changed, and he’s had what’s been about 10 years since that time in which he’s been able to prepare and think about what he’s going to do. Broadly speaking it remains consistent, but the meaning behind it still remains elusive.

What was your reaction when Duch asked to be acquitted during closing arguments?
I think that what happened raised numerous questions. The first was his sincerity, whether this was all a big show for him. It was completely inconsistent, so I began to wonder about the degree to which he understood the world around him and what was going on. The other thing that the prosecution alluded to and that everyone asked questions about was, was there direct political interference in what had happened? And of course we don’t know, and probably never will. But he looked absurd, and everyone was left sort of a bit speechless, really, after all of this stated contrition.

The other thing that was really strange about Duch in court was he would read his apologies, these prepared statements from pieces of paper. He was saying all the right things, but it bore no relation to what he was apologising for and there was no expression of – or if there were, they were very fleeting indicators – of genuine remorse.

But it’s not really the point, remorse or not, it doesn’t really mater – is he telling the truth, that’s probably a more important question, and I think when you ask the victims, that’s the sort of thing that they come back with – “I don’t believe that he’s telling the truth – he remains a Khmer Rouge.”

Is it surreal for you to observe what’s happening now in Cambodia after having been the one to bring Duch out of anonymity?
No, I wouldn’t overblow my role or what I feel about this. This is a Cambodian story, and I think that’s really important to remember. It was a chance encounter in a village in the west of Cambodia 11 years ago and it led to this, and it led to it largely by accident. Of course this was the ultimate hope, that something like this would happen. If it means something to ordinary Cambodians, then I think it will be useful on some level. What we think of it – I don’t think it really matters.

Interview conducted, condensed and edited by James O’toole