In the village Anlong San, in Kandal province, 80 kilometers from Phnom Penh, Him Huy, passes house after house, walking indiscriminately and with total liberty.
Thirty years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the former guard supervisor at Tuol Sleng prison has hung up his black uniform, put away his cap, given up his arms, and become a simple farmer in this village close to the Vietnam border.
Now Him Huy is one of the witnesses against Kaing Kek Iev, his former boss, the Khmer Rouge prison chief known as Duch who will go on trial soon.
“I will oppose Duch,” Him Huy said in an interview this week, “because he is one of the Khmer Rouge leaders who hurt very much the Cambodian people and caused the deaths of Cambodian citizens nearly all over the country.”
Under the Khmer Rouge, Him Huy received prisoners as they were brought to Tuol Sleng, and he was ordered to arrest “enemies of the Angkar,” the Organization, in Phnom Penh and in the provinces.
Each day, he said, Tuol Sleng received between 10 to 60 detainees, and, during the same day, as many as 30 to 70 people were tortured and killed.
“The order to make arrests came from Duch,” he said. “If Duch wanted someone destroyed, he would be destroyed. And he said that after one of the prisoners was interrogated, he must be destroyed. Even prison staff. He said if they cannot follow [orders] they would be destroyed also.”
Duch is charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder for his role as chief of Tuol Sleng, where at least 12,000 Cambodians were tortured before they were executed. His initial trial hearing is set for Feb. 17, with a trial to begin in earnest shortly thereafter.
Duch’s trial will be a signal of justice for Cambodian victims and will inform the international community that Khmer Rouge leaders must be tried for their mistakes, Him Huy said.
In Anlong San, Him Huy’s neighbors say they are waiting for Duch’s trial as well, are following the progress of the courts by radio and plan to follow the hearing on television.
Meanwhile, as Duch’s approaching trial has increased interest in the long-awaited tribunal, the courts remain dogged by allegations of corruption.
The Open Society Justice Initiative, a tribunal monitoring group, issued a statement Friday warning of “grave flaws” in the courts and warning that recent reports “suggest the Cambodian government is attempting to block further indictments.”
“The court must demonstrate that it is not a tool of the Cambodian government and ensure a fair and transparent judicial process,” OSJI Executive Director James Goldston said in the statement. “The court must show it is relying on law and facts, not politics, in deciding how many suspects will be investigated.”