Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, surprised observers this week during testimony as a witness in the Khmer Rouge tribunal’s second case by referring several times to the “research” he had been conducting. Duch, a former math teacher, drew objections from defense lawyers who said he was trying to fashion himself as an expert witness.
Now he has gone some length towards proving the defense right by releasing through the tribunal’s website a 56-page report entitled “A Study: Lessons Learned from the Experiences of the Elders of Former Generations,” compiled during his spare time in prison. The report is signed, simply, “A Researcher.”
Duch’s romp through Cambodian history begins at the start of the French colonial period and moves on to the Sangkum Neastr Riyum before delving into the nuances of Communist policy and practice in Democratic Kampuchea. He also provides thumbnail sketches of historical figures including Lon Nol (“A serious man. His library was big.”), Deng Xiaoping (“A good Christian, but he preferred to keep it a secret”) and Pol Pot (“a self-isolated Communist”).
It also includes a critical discussion of the Khmer Rouge’s paranoia about Vietnam, reserving particularly harsh words for the regime chief ideologue Nuon Chea.
There is little love lost between the two men-Nuon Chea called Duch “rotten wood” in an angry courtroom outburst this week-and Duch spares no vitriol in laying out Nuon Chea’s key role in the Khmer Rouge chain of command.
In a section called “Seeking to Understand the Work of Deputy Secretary Nuon Chea,” Duch emphasizes that Nuon Chea was in charge of implementing all policies devised by Pol Pot. He also points out that Nuon Chea frequently annotated confessions given by tortured prisoners at S-21, where Duch was commandant, and took an active role in purging party cadres.
“Nuon Chea is still alive, but he has not yet done anything at all to give anyone hope,” he wrote of his former boss.
The document is likely to give fodder to defense lawyers, who said this week that Duch’s research in prison was informing his testimony. Some things he told the court this week do seem to have been lifted from the report, including a discussion of the Khmer Rouge’s treatment of Buddhists and a slogan disseminated by Ta Mok.
Michael Karnavas, international defense lawyer for Ieng Sary, led the charge against allowing Duch to include analysis or historical research in his testimony. He says Duch should stick strictly to the facts he witnessed during the Pol Pot regime.
“Many accused who have gone on to cooperate and plead guilty…normally construct a verbal narrative where they confabulate by taking information they actually know and were directly involved and incorporate it with information they learn through the pre-trial disclosure process, and concoct what can only be characterized as false accounts,” Mr. Karnavas said in an email yesterday.
“Without a doubt, Duch has contaminated any vestige of pure memory he may have had about facts he actually knew at the time. His testimony is now a composite of what he may have known, what he learned from 79-98, what he learned from the documents presented to him by his lawyers, by reading the prosecution narrative of the introductory submissions…the testimony of the witnesses, books by academics, journalists, etc.”
Kong Ritheary, one of Duch’s own lawyers, said his client simply enjoys “spending his time writing down everything he knows.”
“He writes handwritten documents just to share his knowledge with the public. Nobody knows him better than himself.”
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)