Monday, March 30, 2009

Confession expected as Duch trial resumes

A child looks at skulls inside a stupa at the popular tourist site Phnom Sampov near Samlot in Battambang province, some 291 kilometres northwest of Phnom Penh this month. The resumption of Duch's trial today may bring new light to bear on generations-old moral questions for the Kingdom. (Photo by: AFP)

Monday, 30 March 2009
Written by Thet Sambath and Georgia Wilkins
The Phnom Penh Post

Tuol Sleng chief's admission of guilt would come amid questions of whether the perpetrators of Khmer Rouge atrocities can also be victims.

HIM Huy, one of the only surviving guards from Tuol Sleng prison, knows that he stands in the middle of one of Cambodia's greatest moral dilemmas: Can the perpetrators of the worst Khmer Rouge atrocities also claim to be victims of the regime?

The 53-year-old's stint at the Khmer Rouge's torture centre may have helped keep the wheels of the paranoid regime well-oiled, but Him Huy now says he was a prisoner of ideology and a slave to the orders of his higher-ups.

"I am also a victim of the Khmer Rouge. If I did not respect and practice Angkar's orders, I would have been executed like the other prisoners," he says.

This emotional moral quandary will begin to be publicly debated today, when the trial of Him Huy's former boss, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, resumes and both victims and perpetrators take the stand to testify about the regime's most notorious detention centre.

"Right now, there isn't anything that exists that pulls the entire story together," says Alex Hinton, author of Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide.

"By the end of this, we will have a much more complete picture of how S-21 ran, with links all the way up to the central committee," he adds.

Although the trial opened formally last month, Monday marks the beginning of the substantive hearings, in which survivors, prison guards and family members of the more than 12,000 men, women and children who were tortured at Tuol Sleng and sent to their deaths will be called upon to tell their stories.

A born-again Christian and former maths teacher, Kaing Guek Eav, better known by his revolutionary name Duch, has been described as both a meticulous, calculated killer, and a passive, subservient actor who slavishly passed on orders from the top.

Of the five former leaders detained at the Khmer Rouge tribunal, he is the only one to admit his role in killings that occurred during the 1975-79 regime - a confession that is likely to be repeated at his trial.

"The things that will emerge most clearly are how the entire S-21 apparatus worked, going all the way from arresting people to taking them to Choeung Ek or the grounds just outside S-21 and killing them," Hinton said.

But in every trial dealing with war crimes, Hinton said, the biggest ethical question is: how do you distinguish between good and evil in an ideology so extreme that it was kill or be killed?

Duch (back row, second from right) photographed with other S-21 guards at Tuol Sleng during the regime.

"My brother had no power to decide who was killed. What he did was on the order of senior leaders," said Hong Kim Hong, Duch's sister who now works at Samlot district's health centre, told the Post last week.

"Ieng Thirith told the court it was Nuon Chea who ordered Duch to do it," she said, referring to an unprompted outburst by the former social affairs minister for the regime during her pretrial hearing.

"So it means that my brother is not guilty because he just did what the senior leaders told him to," she said.

Duch cannot plead guilty, as in civil law jurisdictions there is generally no such legal concept. In the court's hybrid system, a confession by the defendant will be treated like any other piece of evidence, and a full confession - which Duch is widely expected to give - does not prevent a full trial from occurring or relieve the plaintiff from its duty of presenting a case to the trial chambers.

For many who knew Duch when he found God, such as San Thy Matathe, a pastor who witnessed Duch's mid-1990s baptism in a western Cambodia river, the 66-year-old's decision to cooperate with the court was motivated by his new religion.

"If he had not believed in God, he would not have confessed his crimes," San Thy Matathe told AFP last week.

Although Him Huy has not found God like his former boss, he, too, says that telling the court in detail the ways in which he carried out orders to brutalise will give him closure.

"When I know clearly why there was an order to torture and to kill people, my conscience will be cleared," he said. "History pages will be closed by the ECCC. We will know who gave the orders and who was behind these massacres."

Fears of confessing

Him Huy is a public face on the thousands of cadres who made up an intricate hierarchy of regime officials, some defiant and others regretful about their roles as small pieces of the regime's machinery.

"[Testimonies at the court are] a very important step for the healing of a nation because reconciliation is not only about the victims or the winners of war, but the perpetrators and former enemies as well," says genocide researcher Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia.

But with the first trial at the court finally starting, many former perpetrators are afraid to come forward, even as witnesses, for fear of being imprisoned.

"My wife and I can't sleep well since court was formed. We are worried about security and we always think any day the court will summon me," says one former cadre who now lives under an assumed name.

Another high-ranking Khmer Rouge cadre, who was in charge of the northwest zone after the previous chief, Ros Nhim, was arrested in 1978, agreed.
"I am living in a quiet place, away from my village since the court was formed. I am worried the court will arrest me," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It is not only me, my former comrades who were senior officials are also hiding and trying to hide their background since the court was set up," he added.

A former cadre who wanted to be referred to only as Roeun, also questioned the value of the trials.

"Why is Duch being tried if he was a very low-ranking Khmer Rouge member? We are afraid we'll be the next to be arrested and tried because we are higher [ranking] than him," he said.

Expand the trials?

For many overseas observers, the trial must broaden its net regardless of the fears for national reconciliation and stability.

"Many more [former leaders] need to face the court to really deliver justice to the millions of victims of these horrific crimes," Amnesty International said Saturday in a statement, quoting Brittis Edman, Amnesty's Cambodia researcher.

Robert Petit, the court's foreign co-prosecutor, has said that he wants more former regime members investigated. However, his Cambodian counterpart, Chea Leang, disagrees on the basis of national security. The impasse has been made formal and sent to the pretrial chamber for a decision.

Many ex-Khmer Rouge agree with Chea Leang.

Meas Muth, a former military commander and widely considered to be on Petit's second list of suspects, said indicting more people would spark unrest.

"If more Khmer Rouge cadres are accused and detained, there will be problems and disorder in the former Khmer Rouge areas," Meas Muth said.

Regardless of whether more cadre are rounded up, for Youk Chhang the first trial is a huge step towards understanding - for everyone.

"There may be no single answer to what really happened. However, we all have the obligation to participate in the search for truth," he says.

Francois Roux, Duch's international co-lawyer, says that Duch will uphold a promise made last month to ask forgiveness for his role in the regime.

"I would like to repeat Duch's words: ‘I will apologise to the victims, but I won't ask the victims to pardon me yet."



Anonymous said...

i think it was the failed stupid KR policy that caused a lot of injustice and killing that went on during the brutal KR backward revolutionary vision. the was no rule of law back then and so there was no justice for anybody during that time. khmer people were dying everywhere ranging from execution, medical neglect, starvation, diseases, etc.; it was cambodia most horrific era in history and the cruelest ever, not to mention it was one of the world most horrific history as well. cambodia needs the rule of law and a very strong justice system, if anything came out of this trial at all. may every nations on earth help cambodia to establish a permanent rule of law and a very very strong and strict independent justice system. this is the only way that cambodia and khmer people and all our khmer citizens can be protected and prosper in the new cambodia. please emphasize the rule of law society for cambodia from now on. god bless cambodia.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cambodian 1158.
We heard too many already. Just wait and watch. You Cambodians make the world belongs to Cambodia alone, but it isn't.


Anonymous said...

There are more khmer rouge chief out there, they are still hidding their identity! these Khmer rouge chief must arrest and bring them to justice, nearly two millions souls of khmer people wanted to hear their answer! please arrest them and bring them to ECCC for justice of khmer people!

Anonymous said...

There are more khmer rouge chief out there, they are still hidding their identity! these Khmer rouge chief must arrest and bring them to justice, nearly two millions souls of khmer people wanted to hear their answer! please arrest them and bring them to ECCC for justice of khmer people!

Anonymous said...

Ah HIM HUY should stand trial for torture, killing those khmer prisoner! i don't care he's taking an order from the top cammander, this guy properly killed people before he's get an order...he's liar!

Anonymous said...

During khmer rouge most of the killing started from the low ranking, these young soldiers came out from the poors and farmer, uneducated people, they are the most cruel killing machine!!

Anonymous said...

1:21 AM,
I don't believe these Cambodians knew what you meant.
You have to write ELS to them so they can understand you.

I agree that these Cambodians only see themselves important but other nationalities who lost million lives aren't. Cambodians make like the whole world belong to them alone, no one else. BS.

I'm too sick and too tired of their life story.

Every page we open, only see the blockheads cursing their leaders nothing more than that.

Anonymous said...

To Poster 2:12AM.
If you think that your life has also affected by your idiot leaders, you should also create a story don't you? Please stay out from here. We didn't call you to listen our story. You are too noosy aren't you?
In every Nation, there are crimes which they have to crush them. Cambodian is also wanting to contibute to the world by trying to crush their criminals from existing. Are you one of them? we want to hear too. Areak Prey

Anonymous said...

Oh I have alot of story to write but since everyone has his and or her own story, I just move on and build my life and try to live to the fullest.

Well about crimes everyone has committed crimes to some extent. You too Ta Areak Prey, you are not cleaned either. Didn't some body mention you may be former KR?

I had no life in KR because I was born after. Yep I did commit some crimes. I stole my neighbor's bike and wrecked it. that was my crime.

Anonymous said...

Hello Poster 4:34AM,
I can declare in front of my family and to all my friends, that I am very clean. Let alone about creating suffering to others. I have never ever wanted to make my life from any exploitation from other too. My friends have given me many opportunities to earn a lot of moneys from farming chicken farms, but I have refused to take that opportunity for raissing these chichens to be killed. I don't have any feeling to make friends who has bad record at all. The same like yours, I live with full happiness through a true Buddha teaching. If I cannot help any one to get success in their life, I won't create anything to harm other at all. Therefore, all my children and all my descendents will enjoy to hear my integrity and be proud of having me as their Daddy. You can check my record from Indradevy, Sangkum Reas Niyum High and Pharmacy School in Phnom Penh from 1972-1975. I tauch many others to behave very well so that their children will grow in intelligence and be very usefull in any society they have lived in. Areak Prey

Anonymous said...

This is a time for humankind to join the French people and remember and never again forget what they had observed in their Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of August 1789:



LAO Mong Hay, Hong Kong

Anonymous said...

Om Areak Prey.

With all due respect, you just cursing Lord Buddha.
You said you live with a "full happiness through a true Buddha teaching.", but some of your posts we observed, you suggested to punish those suspect criminals with guillotine, and in the old day guillotine was used to beahead a person, and today used to cut.

Your cruel world is already Bab, and you are not cleaned. Get it Om Areak Prey

How can anyone check anyone record if all the records were all burned?

Come on Om Areak Prey. Admit the truth that humans are not clean.

We don't want you to be our Dad, you can be others'd Dad but not ours. Our Dad don't come here online preach hatred and cut human being with guillotine.

Sorry Om Areak Prey, your channel does not work in our station.

Don't use the name of Lord Buddha as a pretext then preaching hatred.

You aren't real Buddhist but
Budislamist may be.

Anonymous said...

Combien êtes-vous au courant du Français ? Le plus raciste, la Suprématie Blanche chaque pour exister sur cette planète? Dr Lao se fie toujours au Français?

How much do you know about the Supremacy French Dr. Lao?

Anonymous said...

If you voted for CPP (Cambodian People's Party):

Also known as:

Communist Party of Kampuchea
Khmer Revolution Party
Khmer Rouge Party
Khmer Krorhorm Party - គណបក្សខ្មែរក្រហម

You're support the killing of 1.7 million innocent Khmer peoples from 1975 to 1979 in Cambodia.

You're support the killing at least sixteen innocent men, women and children on March 30, 1997 Grenade Attack in Cambodia.

You're support assassination of journalists in Cambodia.

You're support political assassination and killing in Cambodia.

You're support attempted assassination and murder of leader of the free trade union in Cambodia.

You're support corruptions in Cambodia.

You're support murder of Piseth Pilika (Hun Sen's affaire).

You're support Hun Sen Regime burn poor people's house down to the ground and leave them homeless.

Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin was a former Khmer Rouge commanders.

Now, Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin are Khmer Rouge leaders, since their leader (Pol Pot) is dead.

From 1975 to 1979, these Khmer Rouge commanders responsible for killing 1.7 million innocent Khmer peoples in Cambodia.

From 1980 to present, these Khmer Rouge leaders responsible for killing innocent men, women and children on March 30, 1997, assassinated journalists, political assassination and killing, murder of Piseth Pilika (Hun Sen's affaire) and attempted assassinate and murder of leader of the free trade union in Cambodia.

When is the ECCC going to bring these three criminals to U.N. Khmer Rouge Tribunal?

Khmer Rouge Regime is a genocide organization.

Hun Sen Regime is a terrorist organization.
Hun Sen Bodyguards is a terrorist organization.
Hun Sen Death Squad is a terrorist organization.
Cambodian People's Party is a terrorist organization.

I have declare the current Cambodian government which is lead by the Cambodian People's Party as a terrorist organization.

Whoever associate with the current Cambodian government are associate with a terrorist organization.

Khmer Rouge Regime had committed:

War Crimes
Crimes Against Humanity
Overwork to Death
Assault and Battery

Cambodian People's Party Hun Sen Regime had committed:

Grenade Attack
Drive by Shooting
Death Threat
Human Rights Abuses
Human Trafficking
Drugs Trafficking
Under Age Child Sex
Mass Evictions
Land Grabbing
Illegal Firearms
Illegal Logging
Acid Attacks
Steal Votes
Violate the Constitution

These are the Trade Marks of Hun Sen's Khmer Rouge Regime.

Under Hun Sen Regime, no criminals that has been committed murder and all other crimes within Hun Sen's government have ever been brought to justice.

March 30, 1997

FBI investigation

U.S. Senate Investigation




I have a question for Hun Sen's government.
Since Hun Sen's government likes to assassinate innocent peoples.
Does Hun Sen's government have any plan to assassinate the U.N. Khmer Rouge Tribunal judges?

Information change without notice as it become available.

Anonymous said...

Dear Poster 10:55AM,
You are indeed cursing on me. Where I have compared myself to the great Lord Buddha? I can only follow as much as I can all his teachings. As I am an ordinary man, I have my feeling of anger as many others. Cannot you remember that Cambodian Constitution has banned capital punishment? therefore, regardless how big is the crmes, these criminals are still free from execution. My suggestion of killing them by guilotine is to use their body parts for medical research. But this suggestion can only be done if these criminals are living in the USA and all their crimes wee committed in the USA too. Where on earth people can accepte this kind of criminals? They have not just killed people, desroyed the country flat to the ground, but they have destroyed every single Buddha status. Areak Prey

Anonymous said...

Om Areak Prey. Read you post in
5:11 AM.

You said " I live with full happiness through a true Buddha teaching."

Practice what you preach, Om Areak Prey. Those are your words. None of us twisted your words.
Your suggestion is cruel and is a great BAB. We only want to remind you that we are here on earth for purposes and none of us is clean and so aren't you.

We all commit crimes or BAB to some extent. If we are clean we would be gone to heaven like Lord Buddha and never again reborn.

None of my groups really believe you are Buddhist. If you are really Buddhist then you may know the Buddhism believe in BAB and Kama, past life and next life.

Anonymous said...

To those Buddhists who misunderstood the teachings of Lord Buddha.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” - Buddha

Anonymous said...

The Khmer Buddhists practice the opposite from Lord Buddha.

- KRT makes Cambodians become famous for annoying the world. Khmers wnat to be the center of attention like the world belongs to them. Cursing people they hate to die in hell that's Khmer Buddhists. (Dweel in the past).

-looking for only revenge and to torture other human lives with guillotine (beahead the people). (Dream of the future) revenge of Khmer Buddhists.

-Khmers from Old school are preaching hatred not helping the new generation to become competitive people so the nation can survive this present time. Khmer Buddhists from old school are the worse enemy of the society that we have to live with them.
None of them encourage us "Kids education will free us." If we read their posts all are nothing but hatred and revenge. We new generation have to endure pain, pain from them and pain of having no mentally support.