Nov. 26 – Notorious Khmer Rouge executioner-in-chief, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch, was sentenced to 40 years in prison yesterday and expressed his remorse requesting that he be allowed to meet the victims’ families to apologize in person.
The 67 year-old Duch said in a courtroom speech that he took full responsibility for the torture and murder of more than 12,000 people at the Tuol Sleng prison in the 1970s.
“I am solely and individually responsible for the loss of at least 12,380 lives,” he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. “These people, before their deaths, endured great and prolonged suffering and countless indignities. I … forever wish most respectful and humble apologies to the dead souls.”
“As for the families, I [am] asking you to kindly leave your door open for me to make my apologies. May I meet with you to allow me to share your intense and enduring sorrow any time in order to express my most excruciating remorse?”
“I found I ended up serving a criminal organization which destroyed its own people in an outrageous fashion,” he went on to say. “I could not withdraw from it, I was like a cog in a running machine,”
Six hundred people were in the courtroom that day to hear his speech which was broadcast on national TV, among the audience were the few of survivors of Tuol Sleng.
One them, Bou Meng, told The Guardian that he doubted Duch’s sincerity. “We’ve wept together,” he said, “I know my tears are coming from sorrow. But I don’t know about Duch’s tears.”
The Tuol Sleng prison is a symbol of Pol Pot’s harrowing regime. A former high school building called S-21, it was where thousands of suspected traitors were brutally tortured for confessions before being killed. In the four years of the Khmer Rouge regime an estimated 1.5 million people were killed or about one fifth of the country’s population.
In February, the United Nations supervised trial against Duch began at a Phnom Penh court presided by five judges including three Cambodians, one French and one New Zealander. Duch is one of the first of four top ranking Khmer Rouge cadres being held for their crimes against humanity.