Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vietnamese cameraman, Khmer Rouge victim reunite ahead of trial

By Puy Kea

A former Vietnamese military cameraman who was the first outsider to document the horrors of a Khmer Rouge prison and torture center after the regime fell in 1979 was reunited over the weekend with one of four child survivors. Ho Van Tay, 76, who arrived in Cambodia on Saturday ahead of a pre-trial hearing for the former prison chief, met Sunday with survivor Norng Chan Phal, 39, for the first time in three decades. Appearing with Tay at a press conference, Norng Chan Phal said he was happy to meet with the man who had helped him and his younger brother leave Tuol Sleng prison in central Phnom Penh after the invading Vietnamese army took it over while capturing the city.
Both said they would both attend Tuesday's initial hearing for 66-year-old Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who allegedly oversaw the deaths of between 13,000 to 16,000 Cambodians while the prison was under his command from 1976 to 1979, historians say. Duch is the first of five detained Khmer Rouge figures to be tried by the U.N.-backed tribunal for their roles in the regime that is blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.
When asked about his onetime tormentor, Norng Chan Phal said, ''It's a right time for Duch to be on trial because he was a direct killer of many Cambodians in Tuol Sleng prison.'' He said Khmer Rouge soldiers took him, his mother and his younger brother to the prison, a former schoolhouse located in the center of the city, several months after his father was first taken there in 1978. Neither parent survived. Norng Chan Phal and his younger brother were among five child survivors. One of them, however, died of malnutrition shortly after the prison was liberated.
Tay, who is in Cambodia at the invitation of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a nongovernmental organization that documents Khmer Rouge atrocities, has offered to help it with its activities, including identification of victims.
In late December, the Vietnamese government donated to Cambodia archival footage, largely taken by Tay , that will be used as one of the key pieces of evidence in the trial of Duch. Duch, a former mathematics schoolteacher, has been indicted for his direct or indirect role in crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and enslavement, and other violations of domestic and international law. Tay spent seven years in Cambodia from 1979, making documentary films that reveal the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. He traveled with Vietnamese troops to various parts of the country to take the footage.
KyodoFebruary 16, 2009

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