Monday, August 21, 2006

Tuol Sleng Survivors

The above photo is reproduced courtesy of DC-Cam and shows a group of survivors from the 20,000 prisoners that were incarcerated in the Tuol Sleng interrogation centre in Phnom Penh between 1975 and 1979. DC-Cam investigations suggest up to fourteen prisoners managed to survive the extermination at the centre though at the time this photo was taken in 1979, only seven had been identified. They were: [RtoL] Chum Mey, Ruy Neakong*, Im Chan*, Vann Nath, Bou Meng, Phan Than Chan* and Ung Pech*. Only three of those pictured survive today - Chum Mey, Vann Nath and Bou Meng.

I've just watched all of John Pilger's documentaries on Cambodia and one of the original survivors, Ung Pech, was interviewed by Pilger for his first programme, Year Zero. Pech, whose life was spared because of his skill as a mechanic, became the first Director of Tuol Sleng when it opened to the public as a Genocide Museum on 7 January 1980, a year after its liberation. In the interview he described how he lost his wife and five children to starvation and how he himself was tortured. Ung Pech remained as Director until the early '90s and passed away in late 1996.


Anonymous said...

Andy, are the Pilger documentaries available in UK now?
I visited Toul Sleng with my daughter last month. It certainly does "bear witness".
Brian Stenson
PS Are you going to Pchum Ben on Sept 16th?

Andy said...

hi Brian, there's quite a few Pilger documentaries as you can imagine and occasionally they come up on eBay, or you used to be able to buy them from the tv companies, but they were very pricey. alternatively, it looks like Pilger will be releasing them himself over a period of time, per his website. i've been lucky to get copies myself from a variety of sources over the years.

I'm trying to find out more about Ung Pech as he appears to have been quite a resourceful guy who was able to hold down the job of Director of Tuol Sleng til early in the 90s. the folks at DC-Cam are helping me out.

Unfortunately I won't be able to make the P'chum Ben festival in the UK.