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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Son Sen and Yun Yat: living by the sword...

Son Sen and Yun Yat: living by the sword...

"THEY are the April 17 people, they must be arrested ... I don't know whether

the Northern committee has purged them all ... More detailed observation requested."

These notes, carefully written in thick red ink in the margins of a confession of

a Tuol Sleng victim, are believed to have been penned by Son Sen.

On June 10, at 2 am in the morning, the past of Son Sen, the silent executioner of

Tuol Sleng's estimated 12,000 victims, may finally have caught up with him.

It may have happened like this: As tensions within the party spilled over, his comrades

went to his house and killed him, his wife Yun Yat and 10 other persons. Then the

bodies were run over by trucks.

Pictures of bloody corpses, apparently including Son Sen, his face caught for eternity

in a chilling grimace, were then brandished by people in Phnom Penh as evidence of

the end of a bloody chapter of Cambodian history.

"This is the end of the Khmer Rouge. They are starting to kill each other,"

said First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh on June 13.

Son Sen's past was equally bloody. He presided over the forced evacuation of Phnom

Penh's two million inhabitants after the capital fell to Khmer Rouge forces on April

17, 1975. During the Democratic Kampuchea regime, he took charge of security matters

including the Tuol Sleng detention center, reporting directly to Nuon Chea and Pol


The trail of red ink recorded in documents collected at the Documentation Center

of Cambodia leads directly to Son Sen, according to the center's director.

"I have studied his initials, his signature, and handwriting for months by comparing

them with his handwriting and [his] signature [on] the Paris Peace Agreements.

"His name, his signature, his initials appear too many times, too many to refuse

to believe," said Chhang.

He said that he does not believe Son Sen is dead.

Controversy over the authenticity of the pictures grew in the days after they were

released to the press.

Funcinpec General Nhek Bun Chhay claimed, during a June 14, press conference that

the pictures were taken by Bun Chhay's bodyguards. But observers questioned that.

They found anomalies: fresh blood stains on the hands of Son Sen when most of the

other stains seemed to have been already dried; and the enlargments themselves. They

pointed out that there are no facilities in Phnom Penh to have such high-quality

enlargments made.

At least one person who was at the press conference, who knew Son Sen personally,

said he recognized Son Sen in the pictures.

According to other sources in Funcinpec, however, the photos were actually given

to the Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok by Thai military sources

During a June 22 speech, Second Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his doubts that

the pictures were genuine.

"Even Son Sen's death is still a mystery," he said. "Who took the

pictures of Son Sen's death? They said that Son Sen was killed at night, but in the

pictures [taken later] the blood is still fresh."

"It did not look like Son Sen. I always met [him] at the Supreme National Council

meetings," he said.



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