Duch Says He ‘Knew Everything’ at S-21

Despite telling the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Tuesday that his deputy held considerable autonomy over “smashings” at Phnom Penh’s S-21 security center, former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav refuted the idea that he was ever in the dark about the atrocities committed under his watch.

Better known by the revolutionary alias Duch, the one-time warden was asked to corroborate previous testimony stating that his deputy Khim Vat, alias Hor, was responsible for ordering the torture and murder of most inmates.

“Yes, it is correct…the duty of smashing was the responsibility of Hor since the creation of S-21,” Duch said on Tuesday , adding that Hor was the immediate superior of more than 90 percent of S-21 staff.

However, he strenuously refuted a suggestion by Victor Koppe, a defense lawyer for Nuon Chea, that he had been ignorant of atrocities committed at S-21, where more than 15,000 people are thought to have been sent to their deaths.

“[The] head of S-21 was not a stupid person! [The] chief of S-21 knew everything!” shouted Duch, who in 2010 became the first Khmer Rouge official to be found guilty of crimes against humanity.

“For example, Hor took a person to be smashed. [It] was known by S-21 and that decision was known to the center” of the Communist Party of Kampuchea, he said, adding that staff would report to him throughout the day with regular updates about prison activities.

“If you said the head of S-21 knew nothing and was a stupid person, that is not correct,” Duch said.

Mr. Koppe later read Duch an excerpt from the book “China and Vietnam: The Roots of Conflict” by academic William J. Duiker, which claims that Vietnam discreetly backed a planned internal coup that was to be led by East Zone leader Sao Phim.

Duch said the theory was sound, citing similar testimony from veteran Indian journalist Nayan Chanda, who appeared as an expert witness during Duch’s 2009 trial. “As for its content, I think it is consistent with the facts at the time.”

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