Painter, S-21 Survivor’s Book Launched in Khmer

The family of Tuol Sleng prison survivor and celebrated painter Vann Nath is releasing the first-ever Khmer edition of his book on his incarceration in the notorious Khmer Rouge torture center.

Entitled “A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 Prison,” his book was published in English in 1998 and subsequently in French and Swedish. But until now, it had not been available in Khmer, Vann Nath’s daughter, Vann Chan Sineth, said Tuesday.

Vann Nath, who died at 65 of a long-term illness in 2011, was one of only a few prisoners to survive what was in fact an extermination camp. His paintings on the atrocities committed at S-21 were, after the fall of the regime in 1979, powerful testimonies that helped make the world aware of the regime’s genocidal policies.

Vann Nath also wrote an account of his imprisonment. “The book was written in Khmer by my father” and later translated into three languages, Ms. Chan Sineth said. So for the Khmer-language edition, she added, “We used his original manuscript.”

This Khmer edition has been a family affair with his daughters, Ms. Chan Sineth and Vann Chan Simen and their husbands, working on the text and his son, Vann Channarong, on the cover.

The book launch starts at 6 p.m. at the Kith Eng Restaurant named after Vann Nath’s wife at 33B Street 169 off Kampuchea Krom Boulevard. Paintings of the late artist are exhibited in a gallery adjacent to the restaurant.

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