Im Chan 1943 - 2000
The sculptor Im Chan has died. Known to the international community as one of the
few survivors of the infamous Khmer Rouge prison, Tuol Sleng, Im Chan was born into
a family of farmers in Kandal Province. He studied silver sculpture at the national
art school from 1957 to 1962 and then joined the workshops of the Royal Palace as
a wood sculptor, carving intricately patterned doors and decorative panels for the
King. In 1967, he moved to Siem Reap where he served as sculptor for Angkor Conservation
until civil war ended all restoration work on the temples.
After the Khmer Rouge take- over in 1975, Im Chan was called to Phnom Penh by the
new government's Ministry of Industry. He worked supervising mold-making in the metal
workshops which produced parts for basic machinery. As the regime continued and internal
purges began, Im Chan was sent to Prey Sa prison, a hard-labor camp on the outskirts
of Phnom Penh. Escaping with several friends, Im Chan tried to return to Siem Reap.
Along the way, he was caught and sent to Tuol Sleng prison. Under interrogation,
Im Chan's captors learned that he was trained as a sculptor. He was taken to the
workshops of the prison where he remained for the rest of the regime, sculpting heads
of Pol Pot from photographs and film clips that were shown to him.
Immediately after the fall of the Pol Pot regime, Im Chan served as an advisor for
the establishment of Tuol Sleng as a museum and served as a guide. He then worked
at the Department of Conservation of Monuments attached to the Royal Palace. In 1987,
he began to teach at the national art school where he served as professor of sculpture
until his retirement in January of this year.
Im Chan is survived by his wife and their four children. Hearing of the death of
his companion in the prison, Vann Nhat, the prison painter, said sadly "now
there is only me left, there is only one left".
A Buddhist memorial service will be held beginning on Friday, Feb 18 at 3:00 and
lasting through Saturday morning at House #445, Street 310, Beng Keng Kang II (across
from Tuol Sleng Museum). Contributions to defray the funeral costs can be given to
the family at this time.