About seven years ago I visited the Tuol Sleng – S-21 – prison in Pnom Pen and it was the photographs on the walls, the photographs of the young men and women, of the children, of the “normal” faces staring out of their prison garb before the horrors had been inflicted upon them, that left a lasting impression. However, that lasting impression was because I knew of the ordeal that was to accompany their departure from the “normality” that was portrayed in the photographs. Yesterday, the Khmer Rouge’s chief torturer, Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch”, who ran the prison admitted murdering thousands of Cambodians and told of his “heartfelt sorrow” for his crimes.(1)
Effectively, the man said “sorry” and what do you think folks? Are the faces peering out of the photographs ready to forgive him.? No, I don’t think so. However, it is the rest of “Duch’s” statement that should make those of us who are not immediately involved think for, he also said, that while he was responsible for this crime, he was just a scapegoat who never dared challenge the top authorities. and that fearing for his own life and for his family, he was just following orders.(2) Do you know, I actually believe him and in believing him, I am not even sure that he is especially evil and that conclusion has very serious repercussions and those repercussions mean that it is important that we resist before it becomes as “immediate” as it did for Kaing Guek Eav, it is important to resist while it is still possible to do so.
The photo shows photographs taken of the “inmates” when they entered the prison. Duch’s indictment reads; “every prisoner who arrived at S-21 was destined for execution”.