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Games at Tuol Sleng

Sorry for the inconsistent posting and the recent lack of links and photos. The Post website is still being upgraded and we're trying to sort everything out. However, if you would like to see photos from the most recent days of testimony, you can check out the ECCC's new Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/krtribunal/

Former S-21 guard Him Huy finished his testimony Monday, which Comrade Duch agreed was largely accurate except for a few "minimal shortcomings." Most notably, Him claimed he saw Duch at least two times at Choeung Ek although the defendant says he only came to the Killing Fields once.

More glaring discrepancies arose between the testimonies of Him and Tuol Sleng survivor Bou Meng. Bou, who survived S-21 because of his painting skills, said that Him had beaten and tortured him. He even claimed that his torturers had jokingly asked him what kinds of sticks he wanted to be beaten with.

Him, however, insisted that this never happened and claimed he had only mocked Bou's small stature.

He was so small, so we "didn't know how could he have a wife already?" Him said, seemingly oblivious to what Bou had obviously interpreted as cruelty.

To test his strength, Him and other guards made Bou carry a heavy stone, and also insisted he give Him a "piggy-back ride."

Despite repeated questioning, that essentially amounted to asking "how do you think Bou Meng -- a prisoner whose wife was killed at S-21 -- felt about this game?" Him failed to acknowledge any malevolence in his actions.

"I did not intend to do any harm," he said. "I thought it was playful."

Apparently one man's teasing is another man's torture.

While it's still unclear to me how Him genuinely feels about his behavior toward Bou, I thought the incident provided a telling glimpse of life at Tuol Sleng. From all I've read and learned, it seems that the brutality at the detention center was coupled with an insidious immaturity on the part of its staff.

People often speak of the cruelty of children and at S-21, many of those running the prison were young teenagers without fully developed psyches and capacities for empathy. In such circumstances, schoolyard mockery and bullying can be fatal.

Following Him, former Tuol Sleng interrogator Prak Khan appeared before the judges today. His testimony continues tomorrow.

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