The Spectacle Blog

From Torture to Execution

I've tried to post updates the last several weeks about the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, or Comrade Duch, as it has provided a rare open window into the brutality and evil conducted by despotic regimes like that of Cambodia's Pol Pot. Even though outlets like AP and Reuters (and the New York Times, a little) have covered the hearings that detail the acts of the former S-21 jailer, I have seen none of their dispatches carried by any U.S. media Web sites or publications.

By on 7.17.09 | 12:28PM

I've tried to post updates the last several weeks about the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, or Comrade Duch, as it has provided a rare open window into the brutality and evil conducted by despotic regimes like that of Cambodia's Pol Pot. Even though outlets like AP and Reuters (and the New York Times, a little) have covered the hearings that detail the acts of the former S-21 jailer, I have seen none of their dispatches carried by any other U.S. media Web sites or publications. I guess genocide and a Nuremburg-type trial about crimes committed in Southeast Asia thirty years ago is too distant a subject to be newsworthy.

This week saw the testimony move from the experiences of those few who survived the torture chamber that was S-21, a school the Khmer Rouge converted to eliminate its "enemies" (almost none of whom were a threat), to that of a security guard for the regime who witnessed the victims' final hours at the mass gravesite that was Choeung Ek:

A senior Khmer Rouge prison guard on Thursday told a war crimes tribunal he was forced to send thousands of detainees to an execution site, where they were brutally killed and their bodies thrown into mass graves.

Him Huy, 54, a guard at Phnom Penh's notorious S-21 prison, said he was ordered by Pol Pot's chief jailor to transport prisoners to a rice field where they were stripped naked and beaten with clubs as they bled to death.

"All prisoners were blindfolded so they did not know where they were taken and their hands were tied up to prevent them from contesting us," Huy told the joint United Nations-Cambodian tribunal.

"They were asked to sit on the edge of the pits and they were struck with stick on their necks," he said, his voice breaking as he gave his harrowing account of the Choeung Ek executions.

"Their throats were slashed before we removed their handcuffs and clothes, and they were thrown into the pits."

As I've reported (secondhand) before, Duch is the only one in the regime who has expressed remorse and apologized to his victims. There is evidence he may have become a born-again Christian, although understandably many are skeptical about that.

Regardless, the trial has been remarkable in that Duch has repeatedly corrected (or at least disagreed with) testimony in ways that reflect even more poorly on him. Khmer Mekong Films has been videotaping the trial and segments of the fascinating exchanges can be viewed at YouTube, with a sampling below.

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