Chief Khmer Rouge Torturer Found
By Jerry Harmer
The report about the discovery of the man known as Duch (pronounced dookh) was to appear in Thursday's issue of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review, the weekly said.
Photographer Nic Dunlop and Review reporter Nate Thayer, who in 1997 became the first outsider to see the notorious Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot in 18 years, said they met Duch.
Duch disappeared when the Khmer Rouge were toppled in 1979 and has long been presumed dead. He converted to Christianity and worked until late last year with various international aid organizations that were unaware of his identity, the magazine said.
The government said it knew of Duch's general whereabouts two years ago, though no move was made to take him into custody.
He is believed to have been named by the United Nations in a recent list of Khmer Rouge members who should be tried for crimes against humanity.
Duch, 56, was quoted by the Review as saying he was deeply sorry for the killings and was willing to face an international tribunal. Genuine remorse would contrast with the grudging apologies offered by some Khmer Rouge leaders.
Duch's emergence could increase pressure on Prime Minister Hun Sen to bring Khmer Rouge leaders to trial. In theory, he could be the key witness, able to implicate those above and below him.
Only one senior Khmer Rouge figure, hard-line general Ta Mok, is in custody awaiting trial. Most other leaders are living in freedom in exchange for making peace with the government.
Prosecutors indicated this week that they may charge Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, two close lieutenants of Pol Pot.
Following the news of Duch's discovery, government spokesman Khieu Kanharith urged him to turn himself in and testify.
Kanharith said Duch should be charged, but "it is up to the court to decide."
Youk Chhang, director of a documentation center that has gathered evidence for such a trial, shook his head in amazement today when shown a recent image of Duch by Associated Press Television News, which has obtained exclusive video shot by Dunlop.
"What's important is to have him alive," Youk Chhang said. "He's the key person who could testify as to how the leaders advised him, in terms of security, on assassination and killing of the so-called enemies of the revolution."
The best estimate — made by the U.S.-funded Cambodian Genocide Program — is that 1.7 million Cambodians out of a population of 7.9 million were killed, tortured, starved or worked to death during the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge reign.
Duch — born Kaing Khek Iev in 1942 — headed the internal security organization and was the director of Tuol Sleng, a Phnom Penh high school transformed into an interrogation prison.
Victims were chained to bed-frames and tortured to force false "confessions" — often to spying for the United States and Vietnam — and then executed in a field outside the capital, where a pile of skulls serves as their memorial.
Mass executions of members of the old government followed the Khmer Rouge victory over a U.S.-backed regime in 1975. The cities were emptied and the entire population forced into rural slave labor camps.
Vietnam invaded Cambodia on Christmas Day 1978, and took Phnom Penh two weeks later. Hanoi's troops found the last victims of Tuol Sleng, executed while still chained to the beds, blood smearing the floor.
© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press