Kaing Guek Eav Speaks for the First Time at Tribunal

The following is an unofficial translation of the statement made by Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the former chairman of the S-21 detention center, in front of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on Tuesday.

Thanks Mr President. First, I would like to clarify some national historical events that the prosecutors have explained already. I would like to assert that the Cambodian people have suffered killings for many years, since 1966 when one Lon Nol general killed many farmers in Samlaut. Then, after the March 18 [1970] coup d’etat, every political faction was vying to kill Cambodian people until April 17, 1975; then this crime monopoly fell to the Com­munist Party of Cambodia. This is the historical event that I would like to raise at this meeting, in accordance with the prosecutor’s explanation this morning.

I would like to assert my stance as follows: From April 17, 1975, to Jan 6, 1979, the Com­munist Party of Cambodia had sole responsibility over the crimes in Cambodia. The Party’s 1976 Statutes constitute important evidence. Page one of these statutes stipulates that “After the achievement of the leadership of the national democratic revolution, which was completely and for all time victorious on April 17, 1975, the Communist Party of Cambodia practiced communism and continued to build communism with monopoly, absolutism and at all levels.” This is the evidence based on documents that I would like to show the nation and people through the Trial Chamber of the ECCC.

First, I would like to analyze the crimes nationwide from April 17, 1975, to Jan 6, 1979, as follows: After April 17, 1975, Pol Pot was very enthusiastic and implemented a policy that affected human lives. This is because of Pol Pot, he controlled everything. The important thing is that there were tens of thousands of party members who were in his grip. The crimes committed at the time were immense. On the ot­her hand, more than one million lives were lost, and as I was a member of the Communist Party of Cambodia, I acknowledge that I truly have the mental responsibility for the crimes that the Com­munist Party of Cambodia committed at that time. I would like to express my remorse of deep suffering and profound regret for every crime of the Communist Party of Cambodia between April 17, 1975, and Jan 6, 1979.

Secondly, I would like to attest to other separate crimes at S-21, for which I would like to acknow­ledge my responsibility in front of the law. I attest by law to all crimes at S-21, in particular the torture and the carnage in S-21. In addition to my above explanation, and the re-enactment of the past events for which the co-investigating judges brought me to Cho­eung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, I would like to ask for forgiveness from the victims who are still alive, and I would like to ask for forgiveness from every family member of the victims who have been brutally killed at S-21. At this moment, I would ask those to please understand and hear that I would like to ask for forgiveness. Please consider this intention. Yet, I really do not ask you to forgive me at this mo­ment. I already know that my killing human beings, particularly women and children, is a very grave crime that could not be forgiven. My request at this moment is that I would like to ask you to please keep the door to forgiveness open.

Thirdly, my remorse is deeply painful, whenever I am reminded of the past; I always suffer at that moment. I am very shocked when I remember past actions that I have enforced and have ordered to enforce, which were the actions of taking the lives of many innocent people, including the lives of women and children. Although I have committed them under the order of Angkar, I am truly responsible for these crimes.

I informed the co-investigating judges already that I was a ho­stage and an actor of this atrocious regime. I believe that people in general at this moment regard me as a coward and an inhumane person. I would like to accept it with honesty and re­spect. While at S-21, I regarded my life and the lives of my family members as more important than the lives of those people detained in the S-21 detention center. Opposing orders from a superior, even knowing that that was an order to murder—I never dared to think about that at that time. This was a problem of life and death for myself and my family. In my position of chief of S-21, I dared not to think about any possibility beyond following the orders from a superior although I knew that enforcing the orders would lead to the deaths of thousands of people.

Nowadays, I have very deep regret and remorse, shame and I know myself to be guilty to the nation and the Cambodian people as a whole, to the family members of the victims who lost their lives at S-21, and to my family, which has lost some members as well. My way to solve the problem at this time is that I have decided to cooperate with the ECCC because with all the guilt I have for what was done to my people, this is the only way to share all the suffering from the atrocities of S-21 and also of the Communist Party of Cam-

bodia. I would like to assert that S-21 and all other tragedies created by S-21 are very real, and I would like to give myself to the ECCC to be tried by law, and with deep respect, and forever.


At the end of my statement, I would like to reaffirm that I really will continue to cooperate with the ECCC. In this trial, I will truly answer every question asked by the judges of this Trial Chamber, an­s­wer the questions of the co-in­vestigating judges and co-prosecutors and answer the questions of civil parties based on my memory and documentary evidence.

Respectfully, Mr President of the Trial Chamber, in following, please Mr President, allow me to speak about the remorse that I have had in my own life as follows: I was never satisfied doing this work. In May 1975, I had requested to work at the Ministry of Commerce, but it was not granted. They assigned me to work at S-21. I was also re­lieved in some way because I was working as a deputy, but then I was assigned as a chief, and I had asked that, ‘please, for someone else,’ but I was threatened at that time. That’s why I agreed to continue to work as a chief.

One thing that shocked me and that I remember was on Jan 31, 1977, when Son Sen ordered the arrest of former cadres of the northern zone in large numbers. I was very shocked. I had tried to suggest to him, saying ‘Brother, these people look like not the right ones,’ he threatened me from the other end of the phone, saying ‘Hey! Duch, this is based on the confessions by A-Thuon. A-Khuon!’ I dar­ed not continue to speak. I thought in my mind, ‘Uh oh, the ones who had been sacrificing their lives for the sake of the liberation of their own nation and people, now they have been killed and have become prisoners under the status of traitors to the party.’ I would like to in­form the people and the ECCC that my comrades from the northern zone and I used to have a good relationship. When I was jailed in 1968, I was in jail with most of those people. My shock continued when seeing the arrests of people from other regions and they finally arrested Brother Nget You, aka Ong, on March 13, 1978. I thought at that time ‘Ah, my turn is coming soon.’ The shock was about the arrest of people and about the worry for my own life.

Finally, my top superior, Brother Number 2 [Nuon Chea] ordered me to take out all the victims from S-21 to Choeung Ek. I thought at that time that my time was coming nearer. At that time I was not able to work. I stayed at home day and night. Please ask; I usually roamed around the drawing and sculpture rooms. They never saw my face at that place anymore. Finally, around 11 am of January 7, an armored personnel vehicle was driving past my house. I was finished and could not do anything. At 2 pm, I gathered with others to escape to nearby Wat Sansam Kosal and waited to keep going at dusk. In one year of running from war, I lost all the people around me and who ran with me; two siblings died, six of my nephews and nieces died, the wife of comrade Pon, comrade Pon and his children died, the wife of comrade Nay died, comrade Yoeun died. All died, no one was left. Fin­ally, I was alone to survive, not just myself but also my wife and two children.

By that time, I wanted to live with Brother Veang Em, aka Sarun, dep­uty chief secretary of the new northwestern zone. He ordered oth­er people to bring me back at gunpoint. I decided at the time that more than one million people had been killed, so just four more people including myself would be no prob­lem. If he wanted to kill me, no problem. No problem. So thinking about the lives of human beings and the people who have been kill­ed by this regime, my life alone was mean­ing­less. One is negligible com­­pared with a million, more than a million. I could not sleep well, and finally I found out one way is to pray and ask for forgiveness from the victims, pray for forgiveness from my parents. I myself also wished to thank my parents who wanted me to be a good person, but I finally ended up in a bad way. I just created a way to appease my feel­ings, which is to pray for forgiveness. At first, I just prayed for forgiveness from my teachers and my parents, and now it has become praying for forgiveness from people in the whole country.                         On every Nov­ember 17, which is my birthday, I cannot do anything on that day, so I have to do a little to appease my remorse. This year, I drew a picture. If the Pres­ident of the Trial Chamber and the Court as well would not mind, I would like to show you this drawing.

On the last day of the Com­munist Party of Cambodia… [The drawing is shown to the court via a projector. The court later admitted it as evidence.] The dying day, in fact, it was true. The Communist Party of Cambodia held its anniversary on Sept 30, 1978, as the last day of the party. The party could not live. At the top of the drawing, I wrote as a headline “Congrat­u­lations on the eighth anniversary of the Communist Party of Cambod­ia.” At the top, I drew three chairs symbolizing Pol Pot in the middle, the chair on the right symbolizes Bro­th­er Number 2 Nuon Chea, and on the left, I drew Ta Mok. Ta Mok was just recently promoted to sit on this chair during the anniversary of the party. On previous occasions, there was only Pol Pot, and Nuon Chea on his right-hand side. Among these [written words], the only real words are the ones from Pol Pot: “The Right Way Must Win.” Be­side that, it is just my own writing to analyze the dream of each person. I wrote about Ta Mok’s dream: “There is nothing above myself.” Only a hat can be above Mok, and above the hat is the sky. Members of Pol Pot’s dynasty were standing firmly above Ta Mok’s soldiers. And I wrote about Nuon Chea’s dream: “Whoever becomes King, I am still a Oparaj [Royal Regent].” This is my drawing about the feelings of each person, and at the bottom are the skulls. All the piles of skulls.

Then I pick­ed up a fortunetelling from an old man during my visit to a village in Kork Mon or Banteay Ampil. The court could ask, the one who still remembers is Colonel Neak Vong, who was based at Banteay Ampil and heard this saying everyday. My drawing of three sickles joined together is the symbol of the party; the court can see where the three sickles join together, it becomes the letter Pak [for Party]. I had been criticizing this Communist Party for a long time, since 1974, that it is not the one that practices proletariat absolutism but was the one that ignorantly practiced peasant absolutism. On the back of the page, I clearly elaborate in Khmer, and I want to finish at this.

   (Translation by Phann Ana. Editing by Isabelle Roughol)




Related Stories

Latest News