As the trial of former Khmer Rouge secret police chief (and Pol Pot’s main executioner) Comrade Duch nears its end, the 67-year-old, who stands accused of crimes against humanity and faces a lifetime in prison if convicted, has made an unexpected step by apologising to his victims.
Reading from a handwritten speech amounting to more than ten pages long, Duch admitted to being “solely and individually responsible for the loss of at least 12,380 lives. These people, before their deaths, endured great and prolonged suffering and countless indignities. I … forever wish most respectful and humble apologies to the dead souls.”
As Duch qualified this statement with the caveat that he was a mere “cog in a running machine”, some of the families of his victims have treated his apology with contempt and derision. However, a great many more relatives will have not even have heard Duch’s confession at all. As Nic Dunlop noted in the September issue of Prospect, 85 percent of Cambodians had little or no knowledge of the tribunal itself due to the Cambodian government’s reluctance to adeqautely publicise and explain the trial to its citizens: