The Spectacle Blog

Khmer Rouge Jailer: Stone Me

I am usually pretty understanding about how and why the formerly mainstream media chooses the stories it covers or runs, but I am perplexed by their near-total ignorance of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (Comrade Duch), the former Khmer Rouge torturer who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cambodians (and a few others) in the 1970s.

By on 8.12.09 | 12:09PM

I am usually pretty understanding about how and why the formerly mainstream media chooses the stories it covers or runs, but I am perplexed by their near-total ignorance of the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (Comrade Duch), the former Khmer Rouge torturer who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cambodians (and a few others) in the 1970s. After all, you've got one of the highest profile criminals from the regime verifying the horrific activities that took place at the S-21 prison, and in some cases correcting testimony in ways that reflect even worse upon himself. Duch has spoken about, and shown strong evidence, that he became a born-again Christian years ago (even working voluntarily in refugee camps for World Vision).

Why should more American media be paying attention? Well, it is a story of an evil dictatorship responsible for deeds at least on the level of the Nazis, if not worse (as the Cambodians say, Hitler killed millions of non-Germans; Pol Pot murdered a quarter of his own people). And like it or not, the Khmer Rouge's rise to power is at least tangential to American involvement in the Vietnam War (many liberal journalists partially blame the U.S. for Cambodian atrocities, which is all the more the reason for the formerly MSM to cover the story). Finally, it's just flat-out fascinating -- how often in history have you heard of a bloodthirsty Communist loyalist (or a lieutenant of any dictatorial regime) exhibit extreme repentance with tears of sorrow for his victims? Read "The Lost Executioner" for a fascinating page-turner about how Irish journalist Nic Dunlop (who doesn't necessarily believe his religious conversion) sought and found Duch. The media is totally missing it. Is race an issue here? Are these people just not important enough?

Well, time appears to be almost up now. The UN-backed court is winding down and Duch is addressing sentencing scenarios:

"If there is a Cambodian tradition -- like it existed in the past when people threw rocks at Christ to death -- Cambodian people can do that to me. I would accept it," said Duch....

"I will accept without challenges... all judgments which will be made by this chamber, the judgment of my role as the chairman of S-21 and all the crimes committed there," he said.

"I am humble before the Cambodian people, I accept all of these crimes and would like the Cambodian people to condemn me to the strictest level of punishment."

"My life is just one life and cannot compare to those lives which were lost during the period," he added.

I don't believe Duch is likening himself to Christ, but that he would accept whatever death penalty is prescribed to him. And skeptics will likely say -- justifiably -- that it's easy for Duch to make such statements because the death penalty has been ruled out in his case. But again, his sincerity would be a subject of a much larger debate if only people were paying attention.

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