Tag Archives: Cambodia

Khmer Rouge Prison Commander, Duch dies at 77.


Duch oversaw the torture and confessions of thousands of men, women and children at Tuol Sleng, a school turned prison.

Duch, the former Khmer Rouge commander who oversaw the mass murder of at least 14,000 Cambodians at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, died on Wednesday. He was 77.

Kaing Guek Eav, who was better known by his alias Duch, was the first senior member of the Khmer Rouge to face trial for his role in a regime blamed for at least 1.7 million deaths in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979.

Duch died at 00:52 am (17:52 GMT on Tuesday) at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. He gave no details of the cause, but Duch had been ill in recent years.

In 2010, a United Nations tribunal found him guilty of mass murder, torture and crimes against humanity at Tuol Sleng, a former high school in Phnom Penh, which is now a museum and a moving memorial to those who died.

He was given a life sentence two years later after his appeal – that he was just a junior official following orders – was rejected.


His death is “a reminder that justice is a long and difficult” process, said Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which conducts research on the Khmer Rouge regime.

“Perhaps it can bring some satisfaction to the living, and the fallen can now rest in peace,” Youk told AFP news agency.

‘Smash to bits’
At Tuol Sleng, codenamed “S-21”, detainees were tortured by Khmer Rouge guards, many of them teenagers because Duch saw them as “like a blank piece of paper” and easily indoctrinated.

The guards sought confessions for non-existent crimes and were instructed to “smash to bits” traitors and counter-revolutionaries. For the Khmer Rouge, that could mean anyone from school teachers to children, to pregnant women and “intellectuals” identified simply because they wore glasses.


Duch – himself a former maths teacher – had an obsessive eye for detail and kept his school-turned-jail meticulously organised. He maintained a huge archive of photos, confessions and other documents with which prosecutors were able to trace the harrowing final months of thousands of inmates.

“The crimes committed by the accused at S-21 are rarely matched in modern history in terms of their combined barbarity, scope, duration, premeditation and callousness,” International Co-prosecutor Bill Smith told the trial, at one point.

Duch – by the time of his trial a born-again Christian – expressed regret for his crimes.

“I would like to acknowledge my legal responsibility for all the crimes that happened at S-21, especially the torture and execution of people there,” he told the court in March 2009.


Duch joined the Maoist movement led by Pol Pot in 1967 and was put in charge of Tuol Sleng after the regime seized power in 1975.

In their quest to build an agrarian utopia and rewrite Cambodian history the Khmer Rouge cleared cities and forced people into the countryside where they died from disease, starvation, overwork or execution. The brutality came to an end in 1979 when Vietnamese forces overthrew the regime in 1979, but Duch slipped away from S-21 and disappeared. Many assumed he had died.

Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, stands in a courtroom during a pre-trial in Phnom Penh in 2008 [File: Tang Chhinsothy/Pool via Reuters]

Total control
But in 1999, Nic Dunlop, a British photographer visiting a remote village near the Cambodia-Thai border recognised him, setting in motion a chain of events that eventually led to his arrest.

In an account of Duch and his atrocities, The Lost Executioner, Dunlop wrote that the former commander’s control in S-21 “was total”.


“Nothing in the former schoolhouse took place without Duch’s approval,” he wrote. “Not until you walk through the empty corridors of Tuol Sleng does Stalin’s idiom that one death is a tragedy – a million a statistic, take on a terrifying potency.”

At S-21, new prisoners had their mugshots taken, and hundreds of those pictures now line the walls.

Norng Chan Phal, one of the few people to have survived S-21, was a boy when he and his parents were sent to Duch’s prison and interrogated on suspicion of having links to Vietnam, considered an enemy by the Khmer Rouge.

His parents were tortured and killed but Chan Phal survived to give testimony at Duch’s trial in 2010.


“He was cooperative, he spoke to the court frankly. He apologised to all S-21 victims and asked them to open their hearts. He apologised to me too,” Chan Phal told Reuters.

“He apologised. But justice is not complete.”

The work of the tribunal -a hybrid court of international and Cambodian judges – was tainted by its limited scope, the age of its defendants and accusations of political meddling.

It recorded only three convictions – including Duch’s.


News+: EU levy on Cambodia comes into action.


The European Union reimposed customs duties on many of Cambodia’s exports on Wednesday, suspending its trade arrangement over concerns about human rights.

Trade commissioner Phil Hogan stressed that while Brussels stands by Cambodia in battling the coronavirus, “Our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights.”

“We have provided Cambodia with trade opportunities that let the country develop an export-oriented industry and gave jobs to thousands of Cambodians,” he said.


Now, Cambodia has lost its access to the EU’s “Everything But Arms” trade arrangement for least developed countries, which will hit typical exports such as garments, footwear and travel goods.

These products represent around 20 percent of Cambodia’s exports to the EU and will now be subject to the general tariffs applied under World Trade Organisation rules.

Hogan said he would restore tariff-free access if the EU sees “substantial improvement” in Cambodia’s human rights record.

Cambodia’s textile sector employs 700,000 people. Total trade between the two partners was 5.6 billion euros last year.


Cambodia free from COVID-19 – Reveal what happens next.

Southeast Asian nation, Cambodia says it has discharged its last COVID-19 patient, Aljazeera reported on Saturday.

Quoting the country’s health ministry, the report said the last patient, a 36-year-old woman from Cambodia’s northwest Banteay Meanchey province, was on Saturday released from the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in the capital, Phnom Penh, and was presented to the media in a live stream on Saturday.

The country, with a population of 16 million, now reportedly has zero cases of the deadly virus.

The Cambodian government, however, urged continued vigilance against COVID-19 and said it would not ease restrictions, which means schools will continue to be closed and border entry checks and quarantines will remain fastidious, NobleReporters noted.

Cambodia has reported 122 coronavirus and no deaths from COVID-19.


“We think that most of the cases, generally, are imported, so we must be careful with all checkpoints at the border, at airports, at ports, at land checkpoints,” Cambodia’s Health Minister, Mam Bunheng, said on Saturday.

“People who travel from abroad must have a certificate confirming that they don’t have COVID-19. Only then would we allow them in, and once they are in, they will be quarantined for another 14 days.”