The Trials of Comrade Duch

Posted on July 27, 2010

Much ado about the sentencing of Kaing Guek Eav — known by his Khmer Rouge nickname "Comrade Duch" — to 35 years in prison (to be reduced to 19 considering time served) on July 26 in Phnom Penh by a United Nations-led tribunal. The verdict and sentence shocked many Cambodians who remember Duch's reign of terror as a remorseless prison chief in charge of torturing and murdering as many as 16,000 Cambodians on the orders of the notorious Pol Pot. Many Cambodians were angry that the sentence had not been harsher, given the horrific nature of the crimes. Adrian Maben, director of a recently funded ITVS film called Comrade Duch, is currently in Phnom Penh to document the sentencing and the reaction to it. Maben has directed three previous films on the Khmer Rouge for ARTE.

Maben's film-in-progress looks at Duch from all sides — from his days as a quiet mathematics teacher to a murderous barbarian, right up to today when Duch — a born-again Christian now — has acknowledged his role in the torture and murder of thousands of his countrymen and remains the only Khmer Rouge figure to show remorse or ask forgiveness.

Maben's film will delve into questions about forgiveness and rehabilitation versus retribution and vengeance, and what it really means when we say "justice has been served." We'll keep tabs on the film's progress and hope to have an update from Maben soon!


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