A Picture says a Thousand Words
—Entry in Exhibition Comment Book, Tuol Sleng Genocide
Museum (November 29, 2005)
Black ink staining white cloth. The word is written across the neckline of
the man’s polo shirt in a photo graph at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in
Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A caption names him:
(original name Kaing
Guek Eav aka Kiev).” Duch’s head rises from the shirt collar, too large for his
slight build. Pressed into a line, his lips conceal bad teeth. In the background,
a man in a dark suit is a shadow behind Duch. Someone has scribbled in white
marker across Duch’s eyes, which glow, demonic. Another person has given
him a small, pointy goatee, the kind associated with the devil. The picture is
Some visitors to the museum would recognize Duch as the Khmer Rouge
cadre who ran a secret security prison, S-21 (Security Office 21), at the site
from 1976 to 1979. In the mid-1960s, Duch (b. 1942) had joined the Khmer
Rouge, a Maoist- inspired group of Marxist- Leninist revolutionaries who
had risen to power on the ripples of the Vietnam War. Upon taking control
on April 17, 1975, they enacted policies leading to the deaths of roughly two
million of Cambodia’s eight million inhabitants, almost a quarter of the popu-
lation, before being deposed by a Vietnamese- backed army on January 6, 1979.
During Demo cratic Kampuchea (DK), the period of Khmer Rouge rule in
Cambodia, over 12,000 people passed through the gates of S-21, which Duch
ran beginning in March 1976. Almost all of the prisoners were executed, many
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