V ANN NATH will almost certainly never meet Pol Pot or the others he holds responsible
for Tuol Sleng, but one day last year he came face to face with one of his former
"Last year, one of the killers came here," he recounts of the encounter
at the Tuol Sleng museum when a French film crew brought one of the prison's former
guards to the museum.
"I was coming here to paint two more pictures. I parked my car and a boy said
to me 'Uncle, that is A Huy'.
"When I heard the name, I didn't know what to do. Did I have to meet him or
not? I sat down and thought about it. You see, I pressed my hand against my heart
and I tried to think of what to say to him.
"You know, I was frightened of him when I was a prisoner. Even just looking
at him would scare me. But [last year], as I looked at him from a distance, I thought
he was smaller than before. So I approached him.
"I called him 'Bong (Brother) Huy'. He turned his face and I said 'Do you recognize
"He said 'No'.
"'I know you very well,' I said. 'You were chief of security here'.
"He denied that. 'I was a low security guard,' he said.
"'I know you very well, do not be afraid. I will not torture you,' I said. 'Do
you recognize me? I was painting here.' Then I went on, to make sure, to remind him
of something that happened in the past. I asked him about the kids who were taken
from their mothers who were prisoners here. In the back of my mind, I had always
kept the hope that the children were freed. 'Where did you take them?' I asked him.
"He responded to me easily, without any remorse: 'I killed them'.
"When I heard his words, I felt like my body was lighter, like when you lose
control. I didn't know what to say."
Nath also pointed out some of his pictures of the torture committed at Tuol Sleng.
"I asked him to look and tell me if the paintings were true. The killer replied
that sometimes the torture was worse than what I had painted."
The former guard "is so poor now. I heard he has seven children now. He is growing
vegetables. He is living with fear."
While Nath remembered the guard as "a simple man who would kill easily",
the man before him last year "was so frightened when he saw me - he thought
that I would kill him or ask someone to kill him".
Nath told him that he need not worry: "I have never had ideas of revenge."