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.
Cog: (Policy and Implementation)
This chapter focuses on Duch’s command of S-21. Using the annotations on the document recording the confession of a S-21 prisoner named Long Muy, Duch argued that he was a cog in the machine who simply relayed information to his superiors, who gave him instructions that he relayed to his subordinates. He argued that, as illustrated by a March 30, 1976, decision to “smash” enemies, the power to execute was invested in four offices, including the Democratic Kampuchea Party Center, not S-21. At this time, the prison population began to change, with suspect Khmer Rouge, sometimes high-ranking, passing through the gates for interrogation, torture, and execution. Duch claimed that he followed orders and the Democratic Kampuchea party line, which he claimed was determined by the most high-ranking Democratic Kampuchea officials, including the regime’s leader, Pol Pot. Duch discussed how Pol Pot’s ideology paralleled and differed from that of Mao Tse-tung. As he described his role, placing himself primarily in his office, where he annotated confessions and spoke by phone with Son Sen and his top deputy, Hor, Duch described some of the purges of high-ranking cadre, including Koy Thuon, whose interrogation Duch admitted he had been a part of. The chapter also discusses testimony by an expert, Craig Etcheson, who argued that Duch, if caught in a hierarchical system, had latitude, innovated, and helped fuel the cycle of violence, especially with his summary reports and analyses of the “strings of traitors” that had to be purged.