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Westerner in Photograph Identified as American Sailor

In this photo taken on Aug. 20, 2012, Director of Documentation Center of Cambodia, Youk Chhang arranges photos, a part of about a thousand of newly-discovered photo collection of detainees at the former Khmer Rouge main prison S-21, in his office in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. More than three decades have passed since the Khmer Rouge ultras orchestrated the deaths of nearly 2 million, one out of every four Cambodians, and turned the country into a slave labor camp.

The photographic evidence proves there were more than just four Westerners detained, tortured and ordered executed at the Tuol Sleng prison.

WASHINGTON DC - Researchers at the Documentation Center of Cambodia have identified one of two Westerners who appeared amid more than 1,400 photographs donated to the center last month.

Researchers say one of the men photographed was American Christopher DeLance, who was seized by the Khmer Rouge as he sailed off the coast with three other foreigners.

The photographic evidence proves there were more than just four Westerners detained, tortured and ordered executed at the Tuol Sleng prison, known to the Khmer Rouge as S-21, which was supervised by jailed torture chief Duch.

“This finding is testimony against what Duch has always claimed, that there were only four westerners who died at S-21,” Chhang Youk, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, told VOA Khmer. “On the contrary, there were 12 of them, and one life is already important, not to say 10,000 or 20,000 lives. It adds to more responsibility for Duch.”

Duch is currently serving a life sentence, having been found guilty of atrocity crimes for his role at the prison by the UN-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal. He refused to identify the men in the two photographs when questioned by researchers, who are still working to identify the second man.

Westerner Identities in Tuol Sleng Photos Remain Unconfirmed
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DeLance, who was born in 1949, was executed at the prison just prior to the ouster of the Khmer Rouge in January 1979. He was tortured into saying he worked for the CIA, according to documents detailing his confession. His Khmer Rouge interrogators said he had used a boat delivery “as a cover,” when he had been spying on the Khmer Rouge navy.

Chhang Youk said that nearly all confessions made at the prison pointed to the CIA or Vietnamese spies. Prisoners believed they would be freed if they confessed, no matter the truth, but they were in fact executed as a result, he said. “After asking his friends, there is no reason to believe he was a CIA agent,” he said.

Researchers at the center say DeLance’s family members have declined to look at the photograph.