Kaing Guek Eav, alias Comrade Duch, who ran the Khmer Rouge’s Tuol Sleng “special interrogation centre” in Phnom Penh, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison. It is the first verdict handed down by Cambodia’s war crimes tribunal, though Duch’s sentence will be reduced by the 16 years he has already spent in captivity.
Crowds attended the court and many more listened to the live broadcast of the verdict. The prosecution had asked for a longer sentence, and many relatives of Duch’s victims wanted him gaoled for the rest of his life, but one of the prosecutors said the sentence showed that senior Khmer Rouge who had committed crimes would be punished. Four more are awaiting trial.
In the mid-1970's, up to 2 million people – a quarter of the population – were murdered by Pol Pot and his fanatical followers – perhaps 17,000 of them at Tuol Sleng. Before it became a centre for torture and murder, it had been a high school. Now it is a genocide museum, and a very, very sobering place to visit.
(See also my blogs of March 4, June 29 and November 22, 2009.)