Man or Monster?: The Trial of a Khmer Rouge Torturer
Alexander Laban Hinton is Founding Director, Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights and Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University. He is coeditor of Colonial Genocide in Indigenous North America, also published by Duke University Press, and author of the award-winning Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide.
Revolutionary: (M-13 Prison)
This chapter turns to the first substantial part of the trial, which focused on M-13, the security center Duch ran during the Cambodian civil war. There, he experimented and began to develop methods of interrogation and torture that he would take with him to S-21 after the war—along with a handful of his top former interrogators. A number of former M-13 prisoners and guards testified, some of whom claimed to have seen Duch engage in torture. A significant portion of the chapter focuses on the testimony of François Bizot, a French ethnographer imprisoned at M-13, who recounted his interactions with Duch, who was his interrogator. Bizot was one of the few prisoners released from M-13. Just before his release, he asked Duch who performed the interrogations. Duch claimed that he became furious when the prisoners lied and sometimes beat them to death. Duch was evasive about this exchange during his trial, arguing that he had been referring to a time when he was sick at M-13. Throughout the testimony on M-13, the depictions of Duch as “man or monster” persisted, including a key moment when he recited French poetry by heart. It also became clear that he would speak frequently during the trial, as he claimed to want to cooperate and reveal the truth—claims that, as the testimony of Bizot and other witnesses illustrated, were contested throughout the trial.