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S-21 child survivor testifies

S-21 child survivor testifies

Duch challenges testimony, saying no children survived.

AFORMER child detainee at Tuol Sleng prison told the Khmer Rouge tribunal Thursday how he passed lifeless bodies as he ran through the prison looking for his mother in the final days of the regime.

Norng Chan Phal, who was only 8 or 9 when he arrived at the secret detention facility with his mother and brother, cried as he told judges how the boys were separated from their mother and forced to sleep near a pig pen.

Describing the last time he saw his mother, he said, "I could see her in the second floor holding the bars and looking at us. She did not say a single word."

But the prison's former chief, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, attempted to rebut Norng Chun Phal's testimony, saying there was not enough evidence to suggest the survivor was ever sent to the prison.

"Yes, children were detained there, but none of them survived," Duch said. "This is just my clarification."

He added: "If we can find the S-21 biography of his mother, then I would accept his full testimony.... But probably his mother suffered at a different security centre."

Researchers from the Documentation Centre of Cambodia (DC-Cam) in February identified Norng Chan Phal and his brother Norng Chan Ny as two of the five children who appear in recently obtained video footage shot by Vietnamese soldiers when they arrived at the prison in 1979.

Though judges rejected a request by prosecutors to show the video footage in full, they showed a still image of the two boys from the film after Norng Chan Phal's testimony was challenged.

"The older boy with his shirt off, it's me," Norng Chan Phal, now 39, said.

Prior to Duch's remarks, Norng Chan Phal described how the children hid under a pile of clothes as the last remaining prisoners were slaughtered.

One of the five children, an infant who needed to be breastfed, died from hunger.

Norng Chan Phal missed the tribunal's deadline to become a civil party and applied to be a witness instead. His younger brother still lives in Cambodia but has not applied to be a witness.

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