Tortured by the Khmer Rouge

More than three decades on, the scars remain for victims of the Khmer Rouge.

    Bou Meng (left) and Chum Mey are among only seven people known to have survived S-21

    Bou Meng and Chum Mey have waited 30 years for justice. Of roughly 14,000 inmates who passed through the Khmer Rouge's S-21 torture centre, they are two of only a handful to have survived. 

    A former high school, Tuol Sleng's playgrounds
    and classrooms became a centre of brutality 

    S-21 was once a school known as Tuol Sleng. It lies in an anonymous backstreet of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

    Once its yards echoed to the sounds of children playing.

    Under the Khmer Rouge it became a centre of torture and execution.

    For the two men, revisiting Tuol Sleng - now a museum to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge - is an emotional journey.

    Looking at the fading blood splatters on the walls of the crumbling former cells Bou Meng breaks down.

    Chum Mey tries to console him. "They beat me for 12 days and 12 nights," he recalls.

    Cambodia: After the killing fields



    The legacy of Year Zero

    Long wait for justice

    Key Khmer Rouge figures

    Surviving the Khmer Rouge

    "When eventually I was in too much pain I told them, I had joined the CIA, the KGB whatever they wanted.""It wasn't really a confession because I didn't answer truthfully. But they stopped beating me."

    He still struggles to understand why he was held here and tortured."I didn't do anything wrong. They killed my wife and my children and they didn’t do anything wrong. Why did they kill my family?"
    Bou Meng also lost his wife to the Khmer Rouge.

    And he still bears the physical scars of the beatings he received at their hands.

    Those wounds have healed, but the emotional damage has not.

    Painter

    Chum Mey shows how he was shackled
    in one of S-21's tiny cells 
     

    He believes the only reason he survived because of his skill as a painter.
     
    "One day they came in here and they asked can anyone draw? I raised my hand and said I could paint. 

    "They asked me to draw a picture of Brother Number One, Pol Pot.
     

    "They said your pictures must be 100 per cent accurate. If they aren't, we'll kill you and you’ll be fertiliser on the rice fields."

    For visitors to Cambodia today, S-21 is museum - a place for the curious to wonder and abhor.

    For Bou Meng and Chum Mey it remains a prison – one they will only be able to escape once the people who put them there are themselves jailed.

    "I'm still angry the leaders are free," says Chum Mey.

    "Khieu Samphan was head of state of Democractic Kampuchea and Nuon Chea. Why do they say they don't know about the killing? It's unbelievable."

    Both men are now old and frail and had long feared they would not live to see any trials or attempts to find justice in Cambodia.

    Eyewitnesses

    Tuol Sleng is a grim memorial to
    Cambodia's brutal past

    Now that the process is underway, they feel new reasons to be afraid.

    "You see we are S21 survivors," says Chum Mey. "We will be eyewitnesses for the trial, and it may be that someone wants to kill us so there are no more eyewitnesses.

    "If you have no eyewitnesses how can you have trial?"

    Nonetheless they both say they are determined to testify."If my generation can kill each other we should do something to avoid it happening again," says Chum Mey.

    For Bou Meng, Chum Mey and millions of other Cambodians, this trial process is a chance to write the final chapter of the long national nightmare.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    When somebody dies lonely and alone, Miyu Kojima steps in to clean their home and organise the mementos of their life.

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    The rise of the Orthodox Church in Russia appears unstoppable, write filmmakers Glen Ellis and Viktoryia Kolchyna who went to investigate the close ties between the church and Putin.

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    Much of India's media spurns a scoop about the son of PM Modi's right-hand man. Plus, NFL as platform for race politics.