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Survivor Welcomes Impending Trial of Duch

A survivor of Cambodia’s killing fields says he welcomes the news that jailed prison chief Duch will finally see trial, with the date of his initial hearing fast approaching.

Van Nath, who survived the Tuol Sleng prison where Duch was the director and where at least 12,000 Cambodians were tortured and later executed, said the upcoming trial, scheduled for February and March, was “the chance we have been waiting for, so long coming.”

Van Nath, 64, was among only a handful of inmates to survive the prison, which has been turned into a museum in Phnom Penh. He survived because he was able to paint portraits of Pol Pot and other leaders.

“But most important is the day of liberation, Jan. 7,” he said, referring to the day in 1979 when Vietnamese forces pushed the Khmer Rouge, out of Phnom Penh. “I was out of prison on that day.”

For his role as director of Tuol Sleng, Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, faces charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The initial hearing of his trial under the Khmer Rouge tribunal will be held Feb. 17. His trial is expected to begin in earnest in March.

Tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath called the beginning of the trial “a response to the expectations of millions of people and the victims who suffered under the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.”