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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NZ man confronts S-21 chief

NZ man confronts S-21 chief

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A photograph of New Zealander Kerry Hamill, one of several Westerners killed at Tuol Sleng.

Victim's brother describes pain of family, his thoughts of revenge.

AN OLYMPIC rower from New Zealand whose older brother was killed at Tuol Sleng prison described on Monday the torture he longed to inflict on prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, for the horrific crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

"Duch, at times I have wanted to 'smash' you, to use your words, in the same way that you smashed so many others," civil party Rob Hamill said in the most confrontational testimony the Khmer Rouge tribunal has yet heard. "At times I have imagined you shackled, starved, whipped and clubbed viciously. I have imagined your scrotum electrified, being forced to eat your own faeces, being nearly drowned and having your throat cut. I have wanted that to be your experience, your reality."

Kerry, Hamill's brother, was sent to Tuol Sleng in 1978 at the age of 26. He had been captured when his 28-foot yacht, Foxy Lady, was blown off course in a storm and ended up near Koh Tang island in the Gulf of Thailand.

News of Kerry's death, which reached his family 16 months after he was originally detained, affected his relatives in ways both subtle and dramatic, Hamill told the tribunal on Monday.

Visibly emotional, Hamill described how his father, in the years after Kerry's death, could from time to time be heard "quietly weeping" to himself as he went about "doing mindless chores" in the kitchen. His mother, Esther, "was possibly the most deeply affected by Kerry's death", yet kept her grief largely to herself, he said. A third brother, John, fell into a deep depression and eventually committed suicide by throwing himself off a cliff.
"On the morning of John's funeral, I remember my mother administering pills to me and my other older siblings, Sue and Peter," Hamill recalled.

"I later found out that they were Valium tablets. It was an example of how my parents didn't know how to deal with their grief."

Journey to Tuol Sleng
Kerry had bought Foxy Lady with a Canadian friend, Stuart Glass, who accompanied him on "a series of wonderful adventures" through Southeast Asia, Hamill told the court.

"At home in New Zealand, we would excitedly sit around the kitchen table while Dad read out each letter accompanied by our exclamations of awe and amusement at the many different sights and colourful cultures he was experiencing," he said.

Hamill later learned that his brother was planning to marry Gail Colley, who had accompanied Kerry on some of his travels.

"Your honours, I'm sure that you can see that, at 26 years of age, Kerry was having the time of his life," Hamill said.

Colley left the group in Singapore, the city from which the last of Kerry's letters to his family was sent in July 1978.

Hamill said his family had never found out for certain what happened to Foxy Lady, but he noted that the confession of John Dewhirst, who was sent to Tuol Sleng along with Kerry, states that a gunboat attacked the yacht, killing Glass in the process.

Hamill also made reference to Kerry's confession, in which he said he worked for the CIA. Hamill said the confession was evidence of Kerry's ability to remain "lucid" and "clever", even while being tortured.

"In his confession, Kerry stated that Colonel Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, a popular chain of fast-food restaurants, was one of his superiors," Hamill said. "He used our home telephone number as his CIA operative number and mentioned several family friends as supposed members of the CIA."

Hamill also highlighted the reference to a public speaking instructor named "S Tarr", saying it was evidence that Kerry was trying to send a message to their mother, Esther.

"He was sending a message to our mother, a message of love and hope," said Hamill, overcome with emotion. "And it was as if, whatever the final outcome, he would have the last say."

'Low' expectations met
Kerry's last confession is dated October 13, 1978. In response to questions from Hamill, Duch said he believed Kerry and Dewhirst had been killed simultaneously, and that their bodies had been "burned to ashes".

Duch did not specify what happened to the ashes. Hamill said after his testimony that the matter of his brother's ashes had been "probably the most important" for his relatives, who had planned to hold a ceremony at the spot where the ashes had been left.

[prison chief duch] was a shining light in that regime, and he did nothing.

After giving his testimony, Hamill told reporters that Duch's "nondescript" answers to his six questions were in line with his expectations.
"My expectations were very low from Duch," he said.

He said he believed Duch had been in a position to stop some of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, in part because he "had the top echelon in his hand".

"He was a shining light in that regime, and he did nothing," Hamill said.

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