28 February 2008

The tears of Comrade Duch

I have already posted twice about Comrade Duch (aka Kang Guek Eav or, Kang Khek Ieu. Click here and here for my earlier posts) , who is standing trial for his role in the Khmer Rouge regime. Duch himself played a major part in this atrocity as head of Tuol Sleng prison – only Twelve out of over 20,000 souls who entered the prison came out alive. Only four of these are still alive today.

Two days ago he was taken back to the Killing Fields where between one and two million Cambodians were butchered and buried in mass graves between 1975 and 1979. "It was emotional, of course, and very quiet," said Reach Sambath, a spokesman for the tribunal that is hearing Duch’s case "Everyone was very quiet."

The best-known site of mass graves, littered with bones and pieces of ripped clothing, is Choeung Ek, about 10 miles south of Phnom Penh. Duch, a born-again Christian, was taken there in a heavily guarded convoy with up to 80 tribunal staff, judges, lawyers and four witnesses who served as Khmer Rouge guards at Tuol Sleng."The four witnesses explained what had happened in front of the accused, Duch," said Mr Sambath, who said he was not permitted to reveal details of the testimony. "He also explained what had happened there as well. Everything was recorded."

After the testimony had been given Duch broke down, first as he passed a tree bearing a sign that said babies' heads were smashed against its trunk, and second, as he made his way back to his car and stopped at a Buddhist stupa that contains the skulls of more than 8,000 of the Khmer Rouge's victims. "He kneeled on the ground and paid his respects and prayed for the souls of those who were killed," said Mr Sambath. "He cried ... When he got to the car he also paid his respects to the skulls behind the glass. He also knelt on the ground and prayed."

I don’t know whether his contrition is sincere or not. Personally I hope it is as his certain inevitable punishment will be more meaningful than if he had continued to justify his behaviour. It is scant comfort to the victims of such a monstrous regime

The trial of Duch is scheduled to begin in July.

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