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Duch Prison Survivor Describes Suicide Attempts

A survivor of one of Duch’s Khmer Rouge prisons told the UN-backed tribunal Thursday she had often considered suicide during her incarceration, but in the end found no means by which to end her life.

Chim Meth, a 51-year-old former Khmer Rouge soldier who was detained in Prey Sar prison, one of three facilities operated by Duch, said on her second day of testimony she had discussed killing herself with friends in the prison and even tried to poison herself on one occasion.

“I could not resist the torture done to me, so I wanted to commit suicide,” she said. “I heard that the bark of a tree could gently kill a person, so I cut the bark and put it in water and drank it, but unfortunately I did not die.”

Duch, 66, whose real name is Kaing Kek Iev, is undergoing an atrocity crimes trial at the tribunal court, for his role as administrator of Prey Sar, torture center Tuol Sleng and the execution site of Choeung Ek, on the outskirts of the capital.

Chim Meth, who was beaten during 15 days of questioning, continued to find ways to end her life, but the prison was bare of such implements.

“I looked for anything in jail to kill myself, but I couldn’t find anything, because prison security never kept anything in the jail, such as a stick or krama,” she said. “One day I abandoned my goal to commit suicide, because there was one woman who told me that our lives are valuable and we should try to live for the future.”

Under the Khmer Rouge, more than 2 million people died from overwork, privation and execution, as the ultra-Maoist rebels exacted an overhaul of Cambodian society.

Chim Meth appealed to the court to find justice for her parents and others who died under the regime.

Given a chance to respond to the testimony, Duch said he would not address remarks of a psychological nature. He was in court to respond to crimes under the rule of law, he said.