For nearly five years in the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge conducted a reign of terror across Cambodia, killing at least 1.7 million people. Almost half a century later, as the trial of the regime’s last living leader concludes, traumatized survivors are trying to stem fading awareness about the horrors they endured.
Norng Chan Phal, 53, is one of the few survivors of Cambodia’s notorious Tuol Sleng prison. He was just 9 years old when he and his family were locked up in the one-time school that served as a torture and execution center for those purged by the Khmer Rouge. More than 10,000 people died there.
“They started torturing my mother by kicking and punching her,” he recalls. “She was kicked in the back and had her head slammed into a desk, which broke her teeth. Blood gushed from her mouth. I clung to my mother, but they beat her up again.”