As the trial that many thought would never happen finally begins today—that of Kaing Guek Eav, 66, better known as “Comrade Duch,” who is one of five men being taken before a UN-backed genocide trial in Cambodia for their crimes under Pol Pot—we at Prospect are looking back on one of the most remarkable articles to have appeared in the magazine: Nic Dunlop’s account of how he tracked down and interviewed Comrade Duch in Cambodia in 1999. Dunlop was the first journalist to locate Duch since the fall of the Khmer Rouge. In the piece, which is free to read on our website, Dunlop describes how his research took him to the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, to Duch’s mother and sisters, to Nate Thayer, the last western journalist to have met Pol Pot before his death in 1998, and finally to Duch himself, who had worked as a health worker for an aid agency, the American Refugee Committee, which provided healthcare and training for refugees, and was now a born-again Christian:
For the first time, Kaing Guek Eav, alias Comrade Duch, began to speak about his role in one of the bloodiest revolutions of the 20th century. “I have done very bad things in my life. Now it is time to bear the consequences of my actions. The first half of my life I will remember forever. Then I thought that God was very bad. I did not serve God, I served communism. I feel very sorry about the killings and the past.” He took off his glasses and looked up. “I did not get any pleasure from my work.”
We presented him with copies of confessions from the prison and he ran his finger over a handwritten sentence that read, “Use the hot method. Even if it kills him, it is OK.” Duch acknowledged that he wrote it. He spoke casually, as though this conversation were a continuation of the last. It occurred to me that Duch had been expecting this, that he had rehearsed for it.
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