News out of Phnom Penh, Cambodia says the former head of a prison where thousands of Cambodians were tortured and then killed for opposing the Khmer Rouge, expressed remorse for his deeds as a genocide tribunal got under way last Tuesday. Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, is charged with crimes against humanity. He is the first of five defendants who belonged to a close-knit ultra-communist regime that turned Cambodia into a vast slave labor camp.
At least 1.7 million or more people died of starvation, disease and execution there. Duch oversaw that S-21 prison in the capital, Phnom Penh which was previously a school. It is now the Tuol Sleng genocide museum. About 16,000 men, women and children passed through those gates and only a handful survived.
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Duch disappeared for two decades, living under two other names and converting to Christianity before he was found in northwestern Cambodia by a British journalist in l999. The orders he gave to murder, torture and rape are too numerous to mention. He is the only defendant to have expressed any remorse for his actions. He wishes to ask forgiveness from the victims but also from the Cambodian people.