Sunday January 19, 2020

In 1979, Khmer Rouge Prison Chief was ordered to execute everyone at Security Centre

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians

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Former Khmer Rouge prison chief S-21, Kaing Guek Eav better known as 'Duch' (C) stands in the courtroom. Image source: www.gettyimages.co.uk
  • Duch was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh
  • Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership
  • In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA- Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, in his second day of testimony at the Khmer Rouge, said that he was ordered by Pol Pot’s second-in-command, Nuon Chea, to kill families of those held by the internal security department.

He even said that in January 1979, he was ordered to destroy the prison and kill remaining internees on the eve of the Vietnamese military’s arrival in Phnom Penh.

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The nine-day testimonial process is focused on Duch’s role as head of the S-21 security center in Phnom Penh, as part of case 002/02 of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia — the full name of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images
S-21, The Khmer Rouge Death Machine. Former Prison And Torture Center. Image source: Getty Images

“Uncle Nuon ordered [me] to destroy everything before the arrival of Vietnamese forces, but at the time, I begged to keep four people [alive],” Duch, clad in white, his head shaved, told international prosecutors. Duch, 74, who oversaw the deaths of more than 12,000 people at S-21, claims he was following party orders to exterminate “the whole family of the enemy” as part of a “cleansing” that coincided with the regime’s approaching collapse.

“At the end, when Uncle Nuon ordered me to destroy all human beings from S-21, I was very shocked and could not do anything,” he said, adding that each time he departed for S-21, his wife feared he would not return. “I was sick the day that the Vietnamese arrived. I was very scared.” By that time, he said, he was acting to keep his own family from suffering the same fate of his victims.

Chum Mey, one of a small number of S-21 survivors, testified that he believed Duch was following orders of party leadership, as junior officers at S-21 in turn followed the orders of Duch on pain of torture or death.

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Nuon Chea has repeatedly denied all responsibility for the crimes committed at S-21, also known as Toul Sleng, including final orders to exterminate all remaining prisoners. He has not attended the recent proceedings on health grounds, instead watching courtroom proceedings via closed-circuit television from a separate room in the facility.

In between 1975 and 1979, Khmer Rouge oversaw the deaths of over 1.7 million Cambodians.

In 2012, Duch was the first senior Khmer Rouge official to be sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions. He remains the only senior regime official to have been sentenced. The other defendants had died even before their trials ended. Chea and Khieu Samphan are the only ones who remain alive.

-prepared by Devika Todi (with inputs from VOA), an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: devika_todi

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Investors in Vietnam to be More Cautious While Investing in Tech Startups

Vietnamese Investors More Cautious with Tech Startups

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Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. Pixabay

Vietnamese startups are heading into the new year looking to avoid the mistakes of such companies as Uber and WeWork, which disappointed investors in 2019 for failing to turn a profit after so much buildup.

Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. WeWork, which rents out shared workspaces, was seen as a cautionary tale of a startup that did not live up to expectations and was not profitable.

For years, investors were willing to back losing businesses to gain market share. But now, there is more scrutiny of new investments.

ho-chi-minh Investors
Ho Chi Minh City is the business hub of Vietnam, where fast economic growth has attracted startup investors. VOA

Benchmarks set

The Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator (VIISA) requires its technology startups to meet a list of benchmarks throughout their time in the program.

“Apart from very intuitive selection criteria that all applying startups have to go through, the program has introduced a new development measurement method, which helps us to capture the progress of startups that are accepted into VIISA,” Hieu Vo, a board member and chief financial officer at VIISA, said. “I think this process will bring out the best in each person for the particular business they have founded and committed to.”

Vo said his colleagues sit down with startups when they join the accelerator to discuss key performance indicators, or KPI, that will be set as goals. VIISA also does training for the young businesses so they have quantifiable skills, such as how to structure a business deal, or how to set up their accounting system.

Having metrics and ratings, Vo said, supports “both business performance, as well as personal transformation of founders.”

Investors Uber
Uber was one among those companies that left investors disappointed in 2019. Wikimedia Commons

Founder scrutiny

The founder as an individual has become a point of scrutiny for investors, who used to be more forgiving of an eccentric or aggressive founder, seen as part of the package to have a tech genius head an innovative business. But there has been a backlash among those who think too much permissiveness can damage a business, from the sexual misconduct amid the workplace culture of Uber, to the conflicts of interest in business decisions at WeWork.

It helps to not just think short term and to have an outside perspective, according to Pham Manh Ha, founder and chief executive officer of Beekrowd, an investment platform in Ho Chi Minh City.

“As a first-time founder, it seems impossible for us to look beyond the first six months to a year of our business,” he said, adding that experienced third parties can help businesses take the long view. “They stand outside the trees that are blocking us from seeing the forest.”

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To see the forest, Vietnamese businesses like his are taking a more measured approach. Vietnam has seen an escalation of tech startups, as investors have rushed to put their money to work and take advantage of the economy’s fast growth.

They also remember the dot-com bubble in the United States, and the more recent global tech bubble, two reminders for caution. (VOA)