Subscribe Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - S-21 survivor plays host

S-21 survivor plays host

S-21 survivor plays host


Kandal province
Tuol Sleng survivor Bou Meng certainly has something to smile about – more than 200 people attended a housewarming party he threw yesterday at the US$30,000 house he has built in Koh Thom district’s Kbal Damrey commune.

Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Bou Meng (right), fellow S-21 survivor Chum Mey (back, second from left) and other guests dine.

“From two years selling my biography, I saved $30,000,” for my house,” Bou Meng said. “I’ve been selling up to 10 books a day for at least $10 each and will keep doing this until I die.”

Bou Meng’s biography, penned by Khmer Rouge tribunal public affairs officer Huy Vannak, with a foreword by the New York Times’ Seth Mydans, has been a hit for foreign tourists visiting Phnom Penh and has enabled the former S-21 detainee to enjoy an easier life.

Bou Meng, like the now deceased Vann Nath, was kept alive during his S-21 detention for his artistic skills.

Recently finished murals of scenes he witnessed during the Khmer Rouge era adorn Bou Meng’s living area. They include vivid images of a saffron-robed monk being clubbed to death, the bright red spearing of a baby tossed in the air like a clay pigeon and waterboarding at S-21.

“I still sell my art, mostly to NGOs or tourism businesses,” he said. “But I will keep selling my book every day just to keep saving money.”

When asked whether he felt any obligation towards less well-to-do victims, Bou Meng said their problems could likewise be solved by the Documentation Centre of Cambodia, which had drafted and published his biography.

“If other victims are in the same situation I was in before, with no money, they should write their book and get an income like me,” he said.

Bou Meng’s home, with its intricate façade work and bright, smooth tiles, stands out in Kbal Damrey, which is at the end of a deeply rutted, unsealed road, more than 60 kilometres from Phnom Penh.

His closest neighbour is a Khmer Rouge regime victim who lost almost her entire family and now lives in a wood-and-bamboo structure across the street from Bou Meng’s house.

“I don’t know anything about a Khmer Rouge court,” 65-year-old Chum Khim said as a child bounced in her arms to the songs of the karaoke singers at Bou Meng’s party and skinny grandchildren ran around in the dirt under  her house.

“All I know is that lots of foreigners come to visit Bou Meng and make him rich.”


  • Kak Channthy, Cambodian Space Project frontwoman, killed in crash at 38 [Updated]

    Updated 5:05pm, Tuesday, March 20, 2018 Kak Channthy, frontwoman of popular The Cambodian Space Project, was killed Tuesday morning in a traffic accident in Phnom Penh. She was 38. Channthy, the internationally recognised singer-songwriter also known as “Srey Thy”, was reportedly travelling in a tuk-tuk on the city's

  • Australians protest Asean summit visit by PM Hun Sen

    Hundreds of protesters gathered in Sydney’s Hyde Park on Friday to protest against Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, who claimed to have been gifted millions of dollars by the Australian government ahead of a special Asean summit this weekend. An estimated 300 protesters, the majority of

  • Australian police investigating death threat against Kem Ley's widow

    Updated: 10:17am, Friday March 23, 2018 Australian authorities on Thursday confirmed they have launched an investigation into a crudely written death threat sent tothe family of slain political analyst Kem Ley and Victoria state MP Hong Lim. The typed letter, reported to Victoria police last week, is

  • Phnom Penh smothered in smelly, dangerous haze as landfill fire continues burning

    A putrid haze that has bedeviled Phnom Penh since Monday night will likely continue as a landfill in Dangkao district continued to burn on Friday, creating health risks for the capital's residents. Workers at the Dangkao landfill on site on Friday attributed the fire, which