‘I tried to quit,’ Khmer Rouge prison chief tells war-crimes court
Duch—whose real name is Kaing Guek Eav—apologized last month at the start of his trial, accepting blame for overseeing the extermination of 15,000 people who passed through the regime’s Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21.
He said Tuesday that in May 1975, the month after the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, he asked for a transfer to work in the country’s industrial sector.
“At that time I really wanted to be away from the security office. I wanted to be in industry,” Duch said.
However, he said, defense minister Son Sen told him he would have to work at S-21.
“That was the end of it. That’s what the superior said, and I dared not to protest. I honestly wanted to run away and go to industry,” Duch said.
Asked by English prosecutor Alex Bates whether he told his superiors he detested his job, Duch said: “I did not particularly say that I hated security work, I only told them that I wanted to do industry work.”
“In Khmer language there is a proverb: is it necessary to kill the crab to show the shit of the crab?” he said.
“When I talked to my superiors, I did not dare to open the crab and show the shit inside the crab”
Although, Duch says he oversaw the brutal prison for most of the 1975 to 1979 regime, he has maintained he never personally executed anyone and has only ever admitted to abusing two people.
The former mathematics teacher has also denied prosecutors’ claims that he played a central role in the Khmer Rouge’s iron-fisted rule and maintains that he and his family would have been executed if he had not followed orders.
He faces life in jail from the court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty.
Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died in 1998, and many believe the UN-sponsored tribunal is the last chance to find justice for victims of the regime, which killed up to two million people.
The tribunal was formed in 2006 after nearly a decade of wrangling between the United Nations and Cambodian government, and is scheduled to try four other senior Khmer Rouge leaders.
But the court has been marred by corruption claims and talks between UN and Cambodian officials ended earlier this month without agreement on anti-graft measures.