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.
With this chapter, the book moves from the midpoint of the trial to the closing arguments. The civil parties went first, with lawyers summarizing the testimony of a number of survivors and indirect victims during the trial. Of particular importance was the testimony of the four living survivors of S-21, Vann Nath, Bou Meng, Chum Mey, and Norng Chanphal, all of whom testified during one week at the midpoint of the trial. As the civil parties’ lawyers reminded the court during the closings, these men’s testimony, especially that of Vann Nath, undercut some of Duch’s key claims, including his claims that he rarely visited the prison and did not hear the screams of prisoners, even though he acknowledged visiting the prisoner artisan workshop on occasion. Bou Meng also testified that Duch once ordered another prisoner and Bou Meng to fight. Drawing on these narratives and the stories of indirect victims whose relatives had been killed at S-21, the civil party lawyers made it clear that they thought that Duch, even though he had spoken quite frequently, was not telling the full truth, only what there was already documentary evidence proving.