For those who haven’t been watching, a few of the leaders within Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge regime are finally being brought to justice (probably) now that Cambodia has agreed to UN-backed trials for five men responsible for many of the atrocities.
One of the stories that is not well-enough known is that of Kaing Guek Eav, or “Duch,” who ran the awful Tuol Sleng (S-21) prison in Phnom Penh, which was once a high school. Specific numbers are impossible to know, but the most common one is that of 17,000 who were sent there, only seven (some say 12) survived. Duch was largely responsible for the torture and killings that occurred there and in several other makeshift prisons in that part of Cambodia. I visited Tuol Sleng (and the Cheoung Ek killing fields nearby) last year and they remain in desolate, squalid condition. Bone fragments and torn clothing still litter the killing fields, and stark photographs of the prisoners are posted in the prison. Visitors can easily imagine the evil practices that were carried out there.
I had been told on my visit that Duch, who was being held pending trial, became a born-again Christian. Sure, I thought. But now that the trial has begun, there is evidence of his conversion and that comes from what appears to be a deep remorse not shown by the other four leaders awaiting trial. Part of the trial had him returning to Tuol Sleng and Cheoung Ek to “re-enact” what happened. I can’t imagine what that meant, but it clearly shook Duch to his core:
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