Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - S-21 photo leaves husband's search futile

S-21 photo leaves husband's search futile

S-21 photo leaves husband's search futile

After learning the fate of his wife while giving testimony at the Khmer Rouge tribunal on Wednesday, Kim Vun yesterday sat with Documentation Center of Cambodia S-21 file photos trying to find the last living photo of his wife.

Flipping through the thousands of passport-sized photos collected by DC-Cam, an anxious Vun paused, his forefinger resting on an unnamed photo of a young woman with short-cropped hair, marked only as “1226” by the organisation.

“Her hair was just like this,” Vun, whose wife ,Chim Nary, was taken for re-education in 1977 and never heard from again, said.

“But in this photo, she is so skinny, it is hard to know absolutely,” he said, his eyes lingering on the black and white mug shot.

Nary’s name is on a May 1978 execution log from S-21, but the whereabouts of Vun’s infant child, who disappeared with Nary, remain a mystery.

Choung Sophearith, of the tribunal’s Witness and Expert Support Unit, sat beside Vun in a courtyard at DC-Cam.

“He had actually asked me before his testimony if I know of any way that he could find out about his wife, because he knew I used to work for DC-Cam,” Sophearith said.

Vun, who is writing a book about his experience as a journalist in the Ministry of Propaganda under the Khmer Rouge, said that in the chaos after the regime’s collapse, his mother-in-law had been in contact with him through a walkie-talkie system and asked after her daughter.

“Around 1996, I often contacted my wife’s mother through walkie-talkie and told her that my wife was OK and fine, but I lied  to her. I did not know where my wife was. Now I have lost contact with my mother-in-law,” he said.

Prior to Vun’s arrival at DC-Cam, researchers had found an S-21 biography and prisoner photo of a man bearing the same name as Kim Vun.

“It was a blurred photo, so we could not recognise it, but when we showed [Vun] the documents, he said it was not him,” DC-Cam deputy director Vanthan Peoudara said. “It may have been possible.

Documents show that releases from S-21 did happen, but we don’t know where any of these released prisoners are now,” Dara said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Bridget Di Certo at [email protected]
Chhay Channyda at [email protected]
With assistance from Joseph Freeman


  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group