Duch Apology Is Heard, But Not All Willing to Accept

In front of the court, Co-Prosecutor Robert Petit read out Wednesday afternoon all the facts concerning the S-21 detention center that Duch confirmed or did not contest.

“Paragraph 153: Starvation of prisoners was a deliberate policy of the CPK,” Petit read. “Paragraph 168: S-21 personnel performed medical experimentations on prisoners.”

Duch, yellow highlighter in hand, checked the paragraphs one by one. Those were some of the crimes for which he had publicly recognized his responsibility and expressed remorse in court the previous day. Many who heard Duch’s admission Tuesday said outside the court that they thought that his remorse was genuine.

“If he was not honest, he would not have dared to confess,” said 18-year-old student Seng Sakseth.

Duch’s confession obliges Buddhists to understand and forgive, explained Thuch Mon, a 50-year-old monk.

“From a Buddhist perspective, if someone makes a mistake, it can be forgiven if that person wants to redress to be a good person. If he already apologized, we must forgive him,” Thuch Mon said.

“But from a legal perspective, he must be punished in accordance with what he committed,” he added.

A Christian convert, Duch’s act of contrition, a rarity among former Khmer Rouge, contrasted with the silence and lack of cooperation of the tribunal’s other four detainees.

“Even though they don’t confess, they will not be able to hide because there’s Duch for evidence already,” Thuch Mon said.

Some acknowledged, however, that a public expression of remorse was also a helpful tool for the defense.

“We cannot infer from the confession whether he is honest,” said Chheav Hourlay, 44, who lost nine relatives to the Khmer Rouge.

“He might have talked to have his sentence reduced or the char-

ges dropped, so we cannot say

anything.”

Duch’s defense team demanded his release on bail Wednesday, arguing that his 10-year pre-trial detention had long exceeded legal time limits. While the legal arguments made sense, the juxtaposition of his repentance with a request for bail could raise eyebrows, noted Heather Lewis, 21, a US student of human rights.

“How can he go from realizing that he was responsible to asking to be released?” she asked. “That calls into question how much responsibility he’s really feeling.”

For Youk Chhang, the director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia who has for years documented the crimes of Democratic Kampuchea, there is no question: Duch’s remorse, mild manners and culture are a cloak hiding the true man and a maneuver to soften the consequences of his crimes.

“I think Duch is an angry man. It’s a quiet evil,” Youk Chhang said by telephone Tuesday, after hearing Duch’s statement on television.

“He’s so smart; he’s well calculated on what he did, what he’s doing now and what he wants for the future,” he continued.

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