A photographer/journalist charts the brutal, sanguinary history of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge and chases down one of its most savage officials, who now sits in prison awaiting trial.
The kindless commandant of S-21, the most unforgiving of Khmer Rouge prisons, was a man of several names—Kaing Geuk Eav, his birth name; Comrade Duch, his Khmer Rouge name; Hang Pin, his name during his years in hiding, when he taught math and English in remote villages, declared himself saved by Jesus and worked for a relief agency. During his years as commandant, only a handful of prisoners survived. It’s miraculous that any did. The methods of torture—60 lashes for urinating or defecating without permission, among them—bespeak both the vast dimensions of the terror and the unlimited abilities of people to imagine ways to torment one another. One of the most disturbing moments in Dunlop’s narrative is an interview with a former prison guard whose lack of affect is both stunning and frightening. Many thousands died while in the care of Duch in ways horrible to imagine. Dunlop features interviews with victims and victimizers, including Duch himself, whom the author helped apprehend. Dunlop tells, as well, the sad recent history of Cambodia; at times, he is unable to restrain his disgust. He notes, for example, that the United Nations forces and bureaucrats, in the country in the early 1990s to supervise a cease-fire and monitor elections, spent $92 million on air-conditioned Land Cruisers for themselves but only $20 million on road and bridge repairs.
Biography, memoir and history of unspeakable darkness.