Facing Death in Cambodia

Facing Death in Cambodia

Facing Death in Cambodia

Facing Death in Cambodia

Excerpt

This is a book with few heroes, plenty of villains, and no easy answers to some of the most vexing questions of our time. Those looking for the “glass half full” optimism that characterized much of the human rights scholarship during the 1990s should read no further. This is a sad story with an inconclusive ending. Its only certainty is an insistence on the necessity for humility when trafficking in the pain of others.

I have spent much of the past decade searching for legal, historical, and moral forms of accountability for the three-year, eight-month, and twentyday rule of Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1978).Their experiment in Stone Age communism cost Cambodia close to two million lives. Most shocking to me was Tuol Sleng prison (also referred to as S-21)—a former high school in Phnom Penh that was transformed into the regime's primary interrogation and torture center. Approximately 14,000 men, women, and children entered the prison between 1976 and 1978. In 1979, less than a dozen were still alive. Before the prisoners were interrogated, tortured, and executed, they were carefully photographed.

Simple, wordless documents more eye-opening than the mounds of human bones, the instruments of torture, or even the killing fields, the Tuol . . .

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