Former Tuol Sleng guard Chim Theang, who said he merely opened and closed doors at the prison.
orty-six-year-old Meng has lived a peaceful existence for more than two decades
on his farm in a village in Kampong Cham raising livestock to feed his wife and four
But Meng's past recently caught up with him. The Documentation Center of Cambodia
(DC-Cam) recently identified him as one of the guards at S-21, the notorious Khmer
Rouge prison and execution center.
Meng told the Post he was worried what his neighbors would think of him, and concerned
at the impact it might have on his family.
"Don't bring me trouble," he said. "If I am arrested there will be
no one to take care of my children and my wife."
Meng is one of around 100 guards still alive who worked at S-21, also known as Tuol
Sleng. He said he had no choice about working there and did nothing wrong.
"My responsibility as a guard was just to take prisoners in and out when there
was an order from high-ranking officials," said Meng. "If the prisoners
in my care died, then I would have been killed too."
His comments are echoed by 51-year-old Chim Theang, another Tuol Sleng guard, who
said he merely opened and closed doors at the prison. He called for senior Khmer
Rouge leaders to be held responsible for the genocide between 1975-1979, not guards
"[The senior leaders] may not have killed people directly but they gave orders
to others to do so," said Theang.
Youk Chhang, the director of DC-Cam, said a large number of former S-21 guards had
told him that they wanted a tribunal to try former Khmer Rouge leaders as soon as
possible. He said many saw it as a way of clearing themselves of the suspicion that
they were involved in the torture and killing of prisoners.
Youk estimated that only 5 percent of the guards at S-21 were involved in the murder
of inmates, but said that even those who had killed had said they were prepared to
tell their stories in court.
Both Meng and Theang told the Post they would not be afraid to testify in court if
there were a tribunal for former leaders such as Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan.
Talks between the UN and the government on creating the tribunal stalled in February
when the UN pulled out of negotiations. Hope now centers on a mandate from the Security
Council or more likely the General Assembly to re-start the talks.
Youk said it was not just S-21 guards like Meng who would play an important role
in any future trial - staff from all 165 prisons built during the Khmer Rouge regime
could be vital witnesses.
"We hope that these people will tell us in the future about who was responsible
for the security system of the Khmer Rouge," he said. "They are very important
as witnesses to history, and very important as witnesses to the court."