Former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, aka Duch, on Wednesday led victims, witnesses, and Khmer Rouge tribunal officials through the grisly halls of the torture center he once commanded.
It was his first visit in 29 years.
Duch, now facing charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, arrived by convoy sometime before 6:45 am and left under heavy guard shortly before 5:30 pm.
“The accused and witnesses moved with judges different places around the compound. Each gave explanations as to what happened here 30 years ago. The accused also clarified what happened when he was chief of S-21 prison,” ECCC spokesman Reach Sambath told reporters.
Reach Sambath told reporters that Duch had been moved to tears Tuesday during a similar visit to the Choeung Ek “killing fields.” Citing confidentiality, he declined to comment Wednesday on whether Duch, victims, or witnesses betrayed any emotion as they walked the halls of Tuol Sleng.
Duch’s visits will be followed Thursday and Friday with court hearings at which the recorded testimonies can be further evaluated. Both visits were off-limits to the press and the public, but the court documented their work with photographs, video footage, and audio recordings, Reach Sambath said.
“I hope you can know what happened today when there is a trial,” he added.
Co-Investigating Judge You Bunleng said Duch said he was glad to be able to visit his old haunt and clarify what happened. “He felt that he was regretful,” You Bunleng said, adding that Duch did not cry.
Duch’s lawyer, Kar Savuth, declined comment.
Anti-riot police, military police and police armed with tear gas, truncheons and AK-47s blocked off the streets around S-21, which is now a popular tourist site.
Chey Sopheara, who directs the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, said the day had been historic, but that he felt little pity for Duch.
“Now he cried, it is like paying condolence, it is like making us pity him,” he said. “But we don’t pity him, we have been suffering greatly for 20 years, and now we are still suffering,” he said.
Documentation Center of Cambodia Director Youk Chhang said he hoped the day would prove helpful to the legal process.
“For PR purposes, it has been effectively reaching out across the world,” he said. The real question, he said, is: “Is it legally significant?”
He, too, had little pity for the regime’s former chief jailer.
“He won’t see what the victims have seen,” he said, adding: “Does he cry for the victim or for himself?”
Bou Hoeurn, 70, who lives about a block from Tuol Sleng, watched along with several dozen neighbors, tourists, and reporters from behind a gold and black police barricade.
He said he lost six siblings to the Khmer Rouge. Peering past the police, at the high walls of Tuol Sleng and the palm trees soaring beyond, he said, “I want to see it but they don’t allow me to.”
“This is historical. This is the good deed of the court,” he added.