A Change of Guard

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Sunday, 25 November 2007

Interview with Duch's sister (Mrs Hong Kim Hong)

Photo: Duch the Executioner.

Radio Free Asia, 22nd November 2007. By Huy Vannak.

Translated from Khmer by Khmerization


Duch, real name Kaing Guek Eav, was chief of Tuol Sleng Torture Centre from 1975-1979. In just over three years between 16,000-20,000 prisoners were brought there, tortured and executed in the most cruel and inhuman ways. Amongst the 20,000 people imprisoned there only 7 have survived.

In an interview with Mr. Huy Vannak of Radio Free Asia, after the second day of Duch's trial on 21st November 2007, Duch's youngest sister, Mrs. Hong Kim Hong, has described Duch as a gentle man and not as a cruel person portrayed by the public and the media.

But in just over three years some 20,000 people were totured and executed in the most brutal ways in a "gentle man's" act of brutality. Read the interview below:

Huy Vannak (HV): When you arrived at the Tribunal, how did you feel when you saw your brother?

Hong Kim Hong (HKH): I felt that if the Tribunal conducted his case according to what his lawyers told me, I am very happy and felt that there will be justice. The Trial was conducted in order to protect any violations of human rights. All the top ex-Khmer Rouge leaders have never been detained as long as him. Only him who was detained longer than any other leaders.

HV: Since he was arrested and detained eight years ago, have you ever visited him?

HKH: I met him at the military tribunal once. My family is very poor. We don't have the means to travel to visit him all the time. Each time we came to visit him we have to spend $100 or so on food and accomodation.

HV: There were claims that Duch was a very cruel person, what do you want to tell the tribunal about Duch's character as a person??

HKH: My brother is a gentle man. Even people who worked with him in many aid organisations really loved him. People whom he worked with in UNHCR and COERR knew that he was a gentle person. My brother is not a cruel person. But at that time he worked under someone's orders. If he did not do it he will lose his life too.

HV: Who was that person?

HKH: Those are the top leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime. I did not know who they were because I was still very young. But I knew it was the orders from the top leaders. So if they continue to detain him it would be very unjust and unfair to him because other leaders have not been detained yet. And those were the ones who were higher than him. And as for my brother who worked under them was detained and will continue to be detained for a long period of time.

HV: How did you know that he took orders from someone?

HKH: During that time I lived under the Khmer Rouge too. I have lived under the KR regime since I was 12 years old.

HV: Did he help you with anything?

HKH: No. All my siblings had never seen each other. We never dare to ask permission to visit each other, even permission to visit my mother. I separated from her to work in a child mobile group since I was 12 years old. I had to work very hard in oder to carry heavy loads. I have never seen any nice clothes. All my clothes were torn like rags. At that time they considered my family to be a capitalist one because all my family members were teachers and tailors. We were not of farming origin. So they required us to work very hard and very heavy. So I worked very, very hard.

HV: Did you know that he was a director of Tuol Sleng Prison during the KR regime?

HKH: During the KR regime I never knew where he was or what job he did because at that time I lived in Neak Luong and I had not made any contact with him. Even my birth place and my mother I never had a chance to visit until the Vietnamese invasion in 1979. So when the Vietnamese invaded I run and run until I reached the Khmer-Thai border, without even having any chance to go to see my home and my mother. I only had a chance to see my mother in 1998.

HV: Did Duch ever discussed about his past or ever admitted his past mistakes to the family or the people living in the same village?

HKH: All the villagers knew everything about him.

HV: What did they know?

HKH: They knew that he was a director of S-21 (Tuol Sleng Prison). And they knew that his name was Duch. My brother had never hidden his real name and real identity. All the people in my village knew everything. But nobody hate or detest or even hold grudges against him because he never done anything bad toward them. Never.

HV: Did he ever tell them that what he had done at Tuol Sleng Prison were wrong?

HKH: I don't know about that because that issue he committed during the past regime and during that regime I have never lived with him because I was still young and because I lived separate from him. I and him never saw each other. Even my mother, whom I lived not too far from, I never had a chance to go and see her. I only saw her in 1998. I separated from her since 1972. I never saw her because I dared not ask for a permission to go and see her. At that time wherever you live, must stay there. There was no permission given for anyone to visit home. Some has said that why in 1979, after the Vietnamese invasion, why didn't he go home to his birth place? I can tell you that all the ex-KR cadres, after 1979, some of them have never seen their homes until now.

HV: why did Duch convert to Christianity?

HKH: That's what he believes in.

HV: What sort of belief?

HKH: That's his decision because he believes that by becoming a Christian will give him a good, peaceful life. So he had chosen to be a Christian. Even I myself is also a Christian.

HV: How will that make your life better?

HKH: Whatever gives hopes to my life I will believe in.

HV: Do you think that God will help Duch have peace in his mind?

HKH: In spiritual way I believe that God can help us have peace in our mind because whatever we had done we must believe in ourselves. So in short a Christian is he who is calm and peaceful in their mind. Who has a gentle character and has compassion toward other people.

HV: Even if the Tribunal continue to detain him, do you still believe that he will have a peace of mind?

HKH: For me personally, I try to have a peace of mind, but in my capacity as his sister, I feel very confused because I was always thinking and always worry, especially worry about his personal health. It is true that the Tribunal and the government have looked after his health but he is an old man now. So he will not live long enough. I am afraid that my family members, and especially my mother who is very old now, will never be able to see his face for the last time before he died. My mother is now over eighty years old.

HV: Where is your mother living now?

HKH: My mother lives in Siem Reap. She is now over eighty years old.

HV: Does she know about Duch's trial?

HKH:Yes, I've told her. And she wanted to come as well. Duch asked why I did not bring our mother here. In fact I cannot bring her here because she might get the shock. She is too old. We have to help her move around.//


Anonymous said...

she did not know, if he was a gentleman when he was still a prison director. If we all start killing others just because we are afraid of dying, the entire population in the country would have been all dead!

Anonymous said...

she did not know, if he was a gentleman when he was still a prison director. If we all start killing others just because we are afraid of dying, the entire population in the country would have been all dead!

Khmerization said...

Dear Anonymous...you are right. I think that her claim that Duch killed because he was afraid of being killed himself was just an excuse. How can he killed 20,000 people so cruel and ruthlessly and claimed that he is scared of someone? It does not make sense.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely understand Duch's situation. Let all you who condem easily look at the facts. EVERYONE who has known him outside his ordered duties from the KR command say good things about his personality & character. He is NOT a evil person. No one could have foreseen what was being created and once the beast (KR) was in power and had crushed all opposition, who could resist or oppose without loosing his life? Even Vorn Vet was condemed to death and he recruited Duch. Everyone at that time knew to not obey orders was a death sentence. No one could escape. The tribunal should be focused on Noun Chea. He IS a evil entity and is more directly resposible for the deaths than Pol Pot. Hang the bastard. Let Duch go home. He is a good man.