Duch Choi Cha’ kai Anh

Written on Jun 11, 2017

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge converted the Tuol Svay Prey High School on the outskirts of Phnom Penh into the murderous Tuol Sleng or S-21 prison. An estimated 17,000 prisoners had been subjected to the following code of behavior enforced by its administrator Comrade Duch or Kang Kek Iew and his killers.

1. You must answer accordingly to my question. Donít turn them away.
2. Donít try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that you are strictly prohibited to contest me.
3. Donít be a fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
5. Donít tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.
7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
8. Donít make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
9. If you donít follow all the above rules, you shall get many many lashes of electric wire.
10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

In 1979 the Vietnam Army ended the horror and liberated Phnom Penh. Twelve inmates exited from the three-story building. S-21 prison’s executed inmates had been buried in the killing fields. The architects of this genocide fled the reprisals of the Vietnamese in 1979 and the most notorious killer Comrade Duch sought refuge in Thailand. Pol Pot demoted his underling for having destroyed the incriminating documents at Tuol Sleng and Duch had escaped justice by teaching school.

During the Khmer Rouge reign teachers had been executed without remorse.

After the murder of his wife Duch had sought salvation with the Western religious fundamentalists of the Golden West Cambodian Christian Church pursuing souls in Cambodia, but his past chased him into a corner and in 1999 he was arrested by the new authorities ie ex-Khmer Rouge compatriots.

In 26 July 2010 an international court of justice in Phnom Penh sentenced Duch to life imprisonment. During the trial he said, “I think the Khmer Rouge would already have been demolished, but Mr. Kissinger and Richard Nixon backed Lon Nol, and then the Khmer Rouge took advantage of their mistake and victory was a golden opportunity for us.”

Duch asked to be released by the tribunal, admitting his guilt.

“Kissinger was walking free. Why shouldn’t he?”

He had a point, but he was sent to prison. Not SR-21.

After the end of the Civil War I visited Cambodia many tiems to renew my Thai visa and I’ve asked the few surviving older people what they think of the Khmer Rouge and their reply comes as a surprise to most westerners raising on the litany of ‘never again’ for the Nazis.

“It’s over. We want peace. Nothing more,” one taxi driver said waiting for two Dutch tourists visiting S-21.

“What about the trials?”

“We don’t understand trials. All we know is that it’s over.” He was old enough to have lived under the Khmer Rouge as a teenager. He spoke a little French, which would have condemned him to the Killing Fields under the Khmer Rouge.

“Au revoir.”

I doubted that I would see him again, but later that night we shared a beer on Quay Sisowith. Choi laughed with all the joy that five Angkor beers can give a man who has lived long enough to wake up from a nightmare with his humor intact.

Duch Choi Ch’kai Anh

Read THE GATE by Francois Bizot.

It says it all.

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