Search form

Login - Register | FOLLOW US ON

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Duch's confession and apology

Duch's confession and apology

The following is a translation of Kaing Guek Eav's address to the court during his trial's substantive hearing Tuesday, March 30, 2009.

In his remarks, Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, accepted responsibility for his role in the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime, including for "everything that took place" at S-21, the secret Khmer Rouge torture centre at Tuol Sleng where more than 12,000 people were brutalised before execution.

He also apologised to survivors and victims' family members and asked that they "would at least leave the door open for forgiveness.

Transcript as follows, translated by Lim Phalla

I would like to begin by saying that between April 17, 1975, and January 6, 1979, the Cambodian Communist Party was the only one responsible for the crimes committed in Cambodia. As evidence of this, I refer to Cambodia's 1976 Constitution, the first page of which reads in part: "After leading the national revolution that fully and completely obtained democracy on April 17, 1975, the Cambodian Communist Party continues to lead the nationalist revolution and to build the nation emphatically and with a monopoly on all its parts".

This is the evidence I want to show to the nation and to the people through this tribunal.

First, I would like to evaluate the crimes committed throughout the country from April 17, 1975, to January 6, 1979. After April 17, Pol Pot became greedy by enacting policies that claimed the lives of so many people.

This was because Pol Pot controlled everything, especially a party whose members numbered in the tens of thousands. Our crimes at that time were many.

More than 1 million lives were lost under the Cambodian Communist Party, of which I was a member. I admit that I am responsible for my role in these crimes.

Let me express my profound regret for the atrocities committed by the Cambodian Communist Party between April 17, 1975 and January 6, 1979. Secondly, I would like to clarify the crimes committed at the S-21 prison.

I admit my legal responsibility for everything that took place there, especially the torture and killing, as I have already expressed when the co-investigating judges requested the acting out of events in order to assist in recalling what happened at the Cheung Ek killing fields and at the [current] Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.

I would like to apologise to all surviving victims and their families who were mercilessly killed at S-21. I say that I am sorry now, and I beg all of you to consider this wish.

I wish that you would forgive me for the taking of lives, especially women and children, which I know is too serious to be excused. It is my hope, however, that you would at least leave the door open for forgiveness. Thirdly, my feelings of guilt cause me great suffering whenever I am reminded of the past.

I feel shock whenever I think of the actions I took and the orders I gave to others, which claimed so many innocent lives. Though I was following the orders of Angkar, I still must take responsibility for these crimes.

I have already told the co-investigating judges that I was taken hostage and served merely as a performer in a criminal regime. I am certain that everyone will think that I am a coward, that I am inhuman.

I am willing to accept these words honestly and respectfully.

In S-21, I considered my own life and the lives of my family as more important than those of the prisoners, and I could not defy the orders of my superiors. Even though I knew these orders were criminal, I dared not think this way at the time. It was a life-and-death problem for me and my family.

As the head of S-21, I never considered any other alternative to carrying out all orders from my seniors, even though I knew that to do so would mean the loss of thousands of lives.

Now, I feel a deep guilt, regret and shame, as I know that I have made so many enormous mistakes against my nation, against the whole Cambodian population, against the families
of all the victims who lost their lives at S-21 and against members of my own family, as well, some of whom have already passed away.

To resolve these mistakes, I have decided to cooperate with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as this is the only way to share the great sorrow over the crimes of S-21 and those committed against the Cambodian community as a whole, and to account for what I have done to my people.

I would like to say, further, that the horrible tragedies of S-21 occurred as a practical phenomenon, which compels me to tender myself honestly to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia to be tried under the law.

I promise to continue my cooperation with the Extraordinary Chambers by answering all questions from the judges, from prosecutors and from civil complainants, on the basis of what I can remember and what evidentiary documents show.

Now, please let me express the sorrow of my life in the following way.

It gave me no pleasure doing the things that I did. I requested a transfer to the Ministry of Industry in May 1975, but my request was denied. Instead, I was sent to S-21. I was initially less concerned because I thought I would be only a deputy. But later, I was appointed head of S-21. I protested again and asked that they choose someone else. I was only willing to serve as a deputy.

But I was forced to accept the position, and so I agreed. One date that I will never forget is January 31, 1977, when Son Sein ordered me to arrest several administrators from the Northern Region.

I tried to ask for some clarification, saying: "Brother, they seem to be different". But he threatened me over the phone. "Hey, Duch!" he yelled. "Who was Thuon or Khuon, from whom you extracted confessions?"

I dared not oppose him any longer. But I questioned why those who had sacrificed their lives to liberate our nation and our people would now have to be imprisoned and die as traitors to the party.

I would like to clarify to the nation and to all my countrymen through this hearing that the Northern Region administrators and I were very friendly and sympathetic to one another. Most of them were imprisoned with me in 1968.

I grew more and more surprised as greater numbers of prisoners were sent in from other regions, and when at the end they arrested brother Ngaet Nhau, who we called Pong, on March 13, 1978, I realised that the end of my own life was near.

I was in shock over my activities [at S-21], and I was frightened that I might not be able to survive. Then, Brother Number 2 [Nuon Chea] ordered me to move all remaining prisoners at S-21 to Boeung Cheung Ek, and I thought then that my life was truly over.

So to save myself, I hid in my kitchen day and night. Those who worked at S-21 can testify that they did not see me there any more.  Finally, at 11am on January 7, [Vietnamese] tanks went past the front of my house.

I no longer knew what to do. At 2pm that day, I took everybody out of S-21 to the pedagogy centre and then continued my journey that night. During the next year, which I spent on the run, everyone who accompanied me lost their lives. Two of my brothers died. Six of my nieces and nephews also died. Comrade Pon, his wife and his children also died.

Other officials and their wives and children died. No one survived. In the end, only four of us - me, my wife and my two children - remained. You know, at that time I did not agree to obey the new sub-secretary of the Northwest Region.

He assigned someone to fetch me back, and he had a loaded gun waiting for me. I thought about the more than 1 million people had already died, so the four of us were prepared to die.

Thinking about all that had happened under this [Khmer Rouge] regime, I would not have regretted losing my life. Because of my great sorrow, I can think of only one way to apologise sincerely to all the victims and to my parents who gave me life. They wanted me to be good, and I wanted to be grateful to them by leading a good life.

But I fell into bad ways in the end.

I have thought of one way to give myself comfort and to ease my suffering. That is, to apologise to all Cambodian people every year on

November 17, which is my birthday. On that day, I will always do something to remind myself of my guilt and sorrow. I drew a picture this year about the last days of the Cambodian Communist Party.

The party last celebrated its birth on September 30, 1978, as it thought there would be no more time to celebrate in the future. At the top of the picture, I wrote: Congratulations on the 18th anniversary of the birth of the Cambodian Communist Party. Below this, I drew three chairs. The middle one represented Pol Pot.

The chair on the right represented Brother Number 2, Nuon Chea. The one on the left represented Ta Mok, who also sat on the honorary chair during the celebration of the party's anniversary.

At that time, the only true words were spoken by Pol Pot, who said: "The right way is to win." I added analyses of everybody's desires. I wrote down Ta Mok's dream, which was: "Nothing can be above me". I wrote: "On top of Ta Mok, there is only a hat, and only the sky is above the hat."

Meanwhile, Pol Pot's dream is a peaceful dynasty. He stands on Ta Mok's strength.

For Nuon Chea's dream, I wrote: "No matter who is king, I am still an heir." In this way, I tried to symbolise the feelings of each of them. And at the bottom of the picture are the skulls.

I also included the prediction of an old man from Banteay Ampil district [Oddar Meanchey province], which Lieutenant Commander Neak Vong --  who presently serves along the border -- can still remember.

The court can see the picture of those three "rice blades", which form the word "party", and which means that the Cambodian Communist Party since 1974 has never been an oppressor of the lower social classes but rather the blind operator of an agrarian dictatorship.

Translated by Lim Phalla



Please, login or register to post a comment

Latest Video

Turkish Embassy calls for closure of Zaman schools

With an attempted coup against the government of President Recep Erdogan quashed only days ago and more than 7,000 alleged conspirators now under arrest, the Turkish ambassador to Cambodia yesterday pressed the govern

CNRP lawmakers beaten

Two opposition lawmakers, Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Sakphea were beaten unconscious during protests in Phnom Penh, as over a thousand protesters descended upon the National Assembly.

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Student authors discuss "The Cambodian Economy"

Students at Phnom Penh's Liger Learning Center have written and published a new book, "The Cambodian Economy".