Voices from the ECCC
It took 45 minutes on the back of a moto to reach the ECCC entrance some 16kms outside of Phnom Penh along Route 4. I arrived at the same time as coaches ferrying villagers from Siem Reap drew up in the car park. Security was very tight, hence no photos from the day, and taking my place in the public gallery, the court began at 9am on the dot. Soon after every seat in the gallery was occupied. My first view of the defendant Duch, through the glass divide, was of him leafing through Voices from S-21, small in stature, looking every inch the studious schoolteacher, flanked by two security guards. He looked confident and at home in the courtroom and his playful interactions with his lawyers at the breaks rubber-stamped that. David Chandler (DC) was called in and sat with his back to the gallery but with his face superimposed on four large tv screens, as well as a pc on the desk directly in front of him. He provided a few brief details about himself and then his research, which began in the early 1990s, then full-time on the book from 1994 until he handed it to the publishers in 1998. He'd studied microfilm archives, the S-21 archives and also at DC-Cam as well as interviewing Vann Nath twice, a couple of S-21 guards including Him Huy and the photographer Nhem En. I had to suppress a wry smile that DC had come over from Australia to testify, whilst Nhem En, who lives in Anlong Veng, couldn't attend the trial this week and had his testimony read out instead.
In response to questions from the defense, DC said he was "extremely moved and impressed by Duch's admission of guilt" after Francois Roux reminded everyone that Duch has already pleaded guilty, though it was pretty clear to me that if they can pin the majority of the blame elsewhere they will. Son Sen looks the best candidate, especially as he's dead. Roux kept referring to the French edition of Voices, which DC bitterly complained about, calling his work 'the meat in a Francophile sandwich,' after the publisher made changes about which he was very unhappy. Duch then had an opportunity to address the court and spent 10 minutes offering his sincere respect and appreciation to DC for his observations regarding his work and DC's search for the truth, and his gratitude for writing about S-21, which he called "1 flower in a garden of 100 flowers in the DK government." There was no direct conversation between Duch and DC. The court adjourned at 4.15pm and I managed a quick hello to DC before making my way out and back home. An enthralling day, to see the court in action at last (and yes, it's incredibly slow, but what do you expect when everything has to be translated into Khmer, English and French), to see DC in the same room as Duch, to watch Duch at such close quarters entirely comfortable with his lot - which just seems so wrong - and to witness so many Khmer citizens coming to see for themselves that justice is finally being sought.