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Duch Blames Torture on Previous Regimes

Jailed prison chief Duch told tribunal judges on Monday he had learned torture methods from the regimes that preceded the Khmer Rouge, as more details of his role emerged.

“I did not learn from anyone,” he told the court. “First of all, the Lon Nol regime taught me, and secondly, the French regime, which tortured members of the Vietnamese Labor Party.”

Duch said he did not learn torture methods from the US or China. The US backed the regime of Lon Nol in a coup against then-prince Norodom Sihanouk, in 1970, as China emerged as a primary supporter of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge.

The 66-year-old Duch, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and murder. His trial, the first of five jailed leaders by the UN-backed tribunal, has been in full swing since late March, but only in recent days has his testimony focused on Tuol Sleng prison.

Known the Khmer Rogue as S-21, the prison was the regime’s principal torture center, where more than 12,000 Cambodians were sent for confession and execution.

Duch said he was selected for promotion to direct the prison because of his experience and qualifications. He proved to be a better director than his predecessor, he said, but he did not like his duties, a fact he could not reveal this openly to his Khmer Rouge bosses.

The prison had two separate periods, Duch explained Tuesday, the period before he became director, and the one after.

In the first period, former Lon Nol government and military officials and civilian supporters were “cleaned,” he said. The prison’s second role, under his direction, was to purge those not loyal to the Khmer Rouge.

To that end, four groups were put in charge, comprised of key figures within the regime, who would then decide who would be arrested and sent to Tuol Sleng, where confessions were extracted under torture before they were executed.

Duch’s testimony Tuesday followed statements that even guards at the prison could be executed. The rules of the prison, he said Monday, had been established by “Vietnam.”