Vann Nath peers through the bars of S-21
I still haven't got out to the Khmer Rouge Trials
at Kambol though this week would've been a particularly interesting time to go as the witnesses giving evidence are survivors from S-21 like Vann Nath, Chum Mey and most likely one or two of the prison guards as well. Vann Nath
gave his evidence yesterday, some 30 years after his incarceration at Tuol Sleng for exactly 1 year. He survived because of his skills as a painter and his paintings have become inextricably linked with Tuol Sleng, where they hang on the walls of the former torture center. I've met Vann Nath a few times, including a filming session on the upper floor of Building B at S-21 and whilst he was a total professional when giving the interview on camera (which he has done so many times over the years), off camera he was quiet and melancholic. Today it was Chum Mey's
turn to tell his story to the Tribunal judges of the torture he suffered during his imprisonment. You can often see Chum Mey at S-21, telling his story to visitors and re-enacting his incarceration in one of the brick-walled cells, it's a part of his life that he cannot forget even if he wanted to, so for his sake, and for Vann Nath, I really hope that their giving evidence and the outcome of the trial will allow some of their demons to rest. It's time some of the burden to tell the world about S-21 was lifted from the shoulders of these two men. I expect one of the prison guards, Him Houy, regarded as too lowly to be up for prosecution, to give his evidence later this week too.
A couple of disappointing briefs from the KR Tribunal: 15 people have been removed from the list of testimony witnesses to save time, the judges have announced and these include journalist Nic Dunlop, the man who discovered Comrade Duch, the man currently in the dock, living under an assumed name ten years ago. The judges also dismissed possible questions to Vann Nath on film footage of Tuol Sleng shot by the Vietnamese soon after they entered the city in 1979 - the judges ruled it was unclear whether the footage was genuine or propaganda produced by Hanoi, as defence lawyers have claimed.
Vann Nath looking at a self-portrait painting of himself that hangs at S-21 A quiet moment for Vann Nath during film shooting at S-21 in March 2008
Labels: Chum Mey, Khmer Rouge Tribunal, Vann Nath