Sunday, April 17, 2011
The inner workings of Tuol Sleng, or S-21 as it was known when more than 14,000 people came through its gates and succumbed to torture and death during the maelstrom of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s, is something that has resonated with me since I watched John Pilger's shocking documentary, Year Zero, in 1979. So a book like Foxy Lady: Truth, Memory and the Death of Western Yachtsmen in Democratic Kampuchea is food and drink to anyone with a similar interest. The exhaustive investigation by author Dave Kattenburg is excruciating in its detail of twenty-seven year old Canadian Stuart Glass, who is the main focus of the book, as the carefree hippee, known as a 'gentle giant,' traversed the globe, occasionally smuggling marijuana. His untimely death at such a young age, along with another eight Western yachtsmen, shines a spotlight on the paranoia and mind-numbing obedience to their cause shown by those at the heart of the Khmer Rouge tempest. Kattenburg's gripping tale uncovers the minutiae of Glass's journey until that fateful day in August 1978, when Foxy Lady, the boat crewed by Glass and two sailing colleagues, entered Cambodian territorial waters, from which they would never return. The book also chronicles the story of S-21, from its inception to its discovery by the invading Vietnamese and the media attention subsequently lavished on this Auschwitz of Southeast Asia. Featuring heavily is the S-21 chief architect of death, Duch, who along with others like Meas Muth and Him Huy, know a lot more than they are telling about the demise of the Western sailors who all happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only snippets and hearsay have so far emerged about the true fate of the eight Westerners who were captured by the Khmer Rouge navy and taken to their eventual execution at S-21, that is after each one underwent weeks, sometimes months of torture for the purpose of fabricated confessions. For Stuart Glass, his story ended on the day the navy intercepted the Foxy Lady, where he was shot and his body dumped at sea. Some might say he was the lucky one. I commend Dave Kattenburg for unmasking this intriguing tale, it's a fascinating story that will resonate with many. Find out more at foxyladyachtsmen. Published by The Key Publishing House in Toronto, Canada.