Perpetrator Studies Network


Itinerary of an Ordinary Torturer: Interview with Duch, Former Khmer Rouge Commander of S-21

By Christophe Peschoux and Haing Kheng Heng


Kaing Guek Eav was an ordinary young man growing up in Cambodia in the mid-twentieth century. He showed promise as a student, excelled in school, got a job as a math teacher, and experienced the political awakening common to young adulthood. But then he became a revolutionary, adopting the alias “Duch,” and took charge of S-21, the infamous secret security center of the Khmer Rouge where in less than four years at least 14,000 “enemies” of the revolution were incarcerated, interrogated, tortured, and executed. After the sudden collapse of the government, Duch fled to the Cambodian frontier, where he took yet another name and lived in workaday anonymity until he was finally unmasked and sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in the heinous crimes of S-21.

This is the last interview Duch gave as a free man, taking place just days before his arrest in May 1999. In it he describes, with remarkable and sometimes chilling precision, the workings of the Khmer Rouge movement and his own role and actions in the startling irrationality of that harrowing and haphazard regime. The interview is supported by an introduction and epilogue that delve unflinchingly into Duch’s character and motivations, our own humanity, and the sometimes uncomfortable implications of global justice.

About the Authors

CHRISTOPHE PESCHOUX and KHENG HAING HENG have worked for many years together in Cambodia as human rights investigators for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, documenting numerous crimes of the current regime. Out of this rich experience grew their friendship, this interview, and this book.


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