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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Khmer Rouge torture chief 'born again'

Walls of the torture centre are covered with pictures of its victims

The former head of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture and execution centre is reported to be living as a born again Christian in western Cambodia.

In an interview with the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review, due to be published on Friday, Kang Kek Leu admitted to being the man formerly known as "Duch", the director of the Security Prison 21 (S21) detention centre in Phnom Penh.

The former prison chief disappeared 20-years ago, when he followed the Khmer Rouge leadership into Cambodia's jungles after the toppling of the murderous regime by a Vietnamese invasion force.

Torture centre

S21, formerly Tuol Sleng High School, was transformed by the Khmer Rouge into a centre for the interrogation and execution of anyone they suspected of opposing their rule.


[ image: Prison regulation 6 states no crying whilst receiving lashes or electrocution]
Prison regulation 6 states no crying whilst receiving lashes or electrocution
More than 12,000 people, including women, children and a number of foreigners, are thought to have passed through the centre's gates during the Khmer Rouge's four years in power - only seven are believed to have survived.

Hundreds of thousands of other Cambodians died in the so-called "killing fields" around the country.

Kang Kek Leu was quoted by the Review as saying that he was deeply sorry for the killings and was willing to face an international tribunal.

But he is also reported to have said that all the executions were carried out on the orders of the top Khmer Rouge leadership.

Spent force

Now, the Khmer Rouge is thought to be a spent force with most of the movement's surviving leadership having surrendered to the government.


[ image: Tuol Sleng survivor Vann Nath looks at a picture of his former tormentor]
Tuol Sleng survivor Vann Nath looks at a picture of his former tormentor
The Khmer Rouge's "Brother Number One", Pol Pot, who led the group during their time in power, died last April.

The BBC's Phnom Penh Correspondent, Caroline Gluck, says the discovery of Duch's whereabouts is likely to strengthen moves to bring those surviving Khmer Rouge leaders to justice.

S21 itself is now a museum, dedicated to those who lost their lives within its walls. Most of those walls have been covered with thousands of pictures of victims, taken by Khmer Rouge officers as part of their methodical record keeping.

The head of the documentation centre of Cambodia, Youk Chang, who has been collecting archival material on the Khmer Rouge, says there is plenty of evidence to prosecute Duch for his part in the killings.

But, he says, Deuch is also likely to be a key witness in any future trials.



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Internet Links


Tuol Sleng: Cambodia's museum of crime

Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project

Cambodian Genocide Program

From Sideshow to Genocide: Stories of the Cambodian Holocaust

Far Eastern Economic Review


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