Cambodian Documentary Video: First Khmer Rouge Survivor Takes the Stand

Saturday, July 04, 2009

First Khmer Rouge Survivor Takes the Stand

More than 30 years after the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, a showdown between a survivor and torturer has taken place in this Phnom Penh courtroom.

The testimony of Vann Nath was highly anticipated as the well known Cambodian artist became the first prison survivor to testify in the trial of Pol Pot's top torturer.

In graphic detail, he described the experience as "hell".

[Vann Nath, S-21 Survivor]:
"When there were insects falling from the lamp, I collected them and ate them. When the security guards saw this, they asked, 'What are you eating?' So they hit me until I spit out the grasshopper or cricket from my mouth."

The man accused of the crimes listened as the testimony continued.

[Vann Nath, S-21 Survivor]:
"When I didn't shower for such a long time, there were lice on my body and head. I scratched everywhere. So my life was like an evil animal."

More than 14,000 people died at the notorious S-21 detention center, a converted high school in the center of Phnom Penh.

Nath says he survived only because chief torturer Duch liked his paintings of Pol Pot.

Duch has admitted his part in the deaths but maintains he was only following orders.

With no death penalty in Cambodia, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

But Nath says he wanted to speak about the horrors of the regime in an effort to seek justice for all those who died at their hands ... and will remain forever silent.

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