Comrade Duch, the notorious head of the Khmer Rouge’s Tuol Sleng torture center, or S-21, has been hospitalized in Phnom Penh for a urinary problem and is awaiting surgery, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Duch, 63, whose real name is Kaing Khek Iev, was transferred to the Preah Ket Melea military hospital Jan 12, where he has been allocated a private room and is under constant watch by military police and prison guards.
Duch is not allowed visitors or reporters, his guards said on Tuesday.
“He cannot urinate as usual, so has had a pipe inserted to his urinary tract to empty his bladder,” said Duch’s lawyer Kar Savuth.
“His illness is serious but not critical,” he said, adding that he is grateful for special care Duch has received at the hospital.
Youk Chhang, director of the Cambodian Documentation Center, lauded the government’s equitable treatment of Duch despite his being one of the most brutal Khmer Rouge figures.
“It is the government’s duty and responsibility to protect him and take care of him,” Youk Chhang said.
Lao Mong Hay, legal advisor at the Center for Social Development, said: “Duch will be one of the star witnesses at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. It is important to keep him alive so he can tell the truth.”
A fiery intellectual and former mathematics teacher, Duch became an active communist in the mid-1960s and ascended through the Khmer Rouge chain of command. Between 1975 and 1979, Duch was the head of S-21, where he presided over the deaths of about 14,000 prisoners.
Duch escaped Phnom Penh on the eve of the Vietnamese invasion and was not heard of until 1999, when he was found living and working for an NGO in northwestern Cambodia. Since his arrest, Duch has been held in solitary confinement at the military prison in Phnom Penh.