When the Khmer Rouge fell in 1979, Ho Chamroeun made for Phnom Penh to find his older brother. It would be a search that led him to Tuol Sleng prison.
Phnom Penh was deserted, but a woman Ho Chamroeun knew told him that his brother, Ho Tey, had been detained at Tuol Sleng.
“In 1979, I walked behind the Vietnamese soldiers…. I went to Tuol Sleng, I told his name [to the guards], and the guards gave me documents,” Ho Chamroeun said Tuesday.
Those documents revealed that his brother, an electrical engineer then in his 40s, had indeed been imprisoned at the notorious Khmer Rouge torture prison in 1975 but had died of an unspecified disease in 1977.
Ho Chamroeun, himself now 43, still has no idea why his brother was placed in Tuol Sleng by the regime.
In the years since, Ho Chamroeun lost the piece of paper that told him of his brother’s fate, but on Friday, he handed over the rest of the documentation he received from Toul Sleng nearly 30 years ago to the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
DC-Cam Director Youk Chhang said by telephone Tuesday that Ho Chamroeun had turned over to him what appears to be an official list of names from the records at Tuol Sleng.
He said that the list of about 100 Cambodians does not say whether the people had been detained at the prison, so it was hard to say exactly what it was a record of. Because it did not give any dates of imprisonment, he said, it might be a list of people who had been implicated by detainees interrogated at the prison.
“It is a Tuol Sleng document…the prison guards had the names and wanted to arrest,” Youk Chhang speculated.
“It is a piece of history, and every piece is important,” he added.
Speaking by telephone from Pursat’s Krakor district Tuesday, Ho Chamroeun said he had given DC-Cam the document in the hopes that other people can use it to help learn what happened to their own loved ones during the regime.
“Many other people need this document more than me,” he said, adding that he was also afraid he might lose the historical document, as he had already lost the sheet detailing his brother’s demise.